Cover for No Agenda Show 726: Weather Whiplash
May 31st, 2015 • 2h 55m

726: Weather Whiplash


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

Presidential Proclamation - National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, 2015
Fri, 29 May 2015 18:19
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 29, 2015
- - - - - - -
For centuries, Americans have been united with our Caribbean neighbors not just by friendship and economic cooperation, but also by our common values and ties of kin. From a region of extraordinary beauty, generations of immigrants have brought their enormous spirit, unique talents, and vibrant culture to the United States. Their contributions have enriched our Nation and strengthened the deep bonds between our peoples. This month, we celebrate the Caribbean Americans whose legacies are woven into the fabric of our Nation, and we reaffirm our belief that throughout the region, we all share a stake in one another's success.
As partners, our nations have reached for progress together, and in our diverse cultures and complex histories, we see a common trajectory toward a more free, equal, and prosperous community. Throughout the Caribbean, courageous peoples have thrown off the yoke of colonial rule, seizing the right to chart their own destinies, and they have overcome the stains of slavery and segregation to widen the circle of opportunity for all. Here in America, Caribbean Americans have followed in the footsteps of their ancestors, joining their voices with the chorus of patriots and carrying forward the baton of justice -- from the battlefield and the outfield, in places like Selma and Seneca Falls, and through powerful song, poetry, and prose.
Just as our nations' pasts are shared, our futures are inextricably linked. As millions of Caribbean Americans continue to innovate and thrive in the United States, my Administration is committed to lifting up hardworking individuals throughout the Caribbean and partnering with governments to build the foundation for the next century of progress and prosperity. We are investing in young business leaders and civil society activists, working to expand what is possible for the next generation of Caribbean leaders, and supporting entrepreneurship, student exchanges, and more effective job training. With new partnerships, we are helping to move the region toward cleaner, more affordable energy. And as the United States begins to normalize our relations with Cuba, we have the potential to empower a nation and end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere.
America is and always has been a Nation of immigrants, and today -- as pillars of family and leaders in their communities -- Caribbean Americans strengthen every aspect of our society. We must ensure our Nation remains a magnet for the best and the brightest around the world. Because of my 2012 DACA policy, thousands of DREAMers from the Caribbean have been able to live up to their potential, and last year, I announced my intent to take action that would allow more high-skilled immigrants, graduates, entrepreneurs, and families to contribute to our economy, including by expanding the existing DACA policy and creating a new policy to provide temporary relief to certain undocumented parents of American citizens and lawful permanent residents. And I continue to call on the Congress to finish the job by passing comprehensive immigration reform.
Caribbean Americans have shaped the course of our country since the earliest chapters of our history, and they continue to drive our Nation to realize the promise of our founding. During National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, we honor the courage and perseverance of the Caribbean-American community, and we rededicate ourselves to building opportunity and protecting human rights for all our citizens.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2015 as National Caribbean-American Heritage Month. I encourage all Americans to celebrate the history and culture of Caribbean Americans with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
Presidential Proclamation - African-American Music Appreciation Month, 2015
Fri, 29 May 2015 18:19
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 29, 2015
- - - - - - -
For centuries, African-American musicians have shaped our Nation and helped tell our story. By melding enduring truths with new sounds, they have pioneered entire genres and contributed to the foundation of our musical landscape -- capturing an essential part of who we are as Americans. During African-American Music Appreciation Month, we recognize the artists who have enriched our lives and the ways their beats and harmonies have advanced our unending journey toward a more perfect Union. With all the energy and diversity of our great Nation, the stirring sounds of the American experience have expanded our minds and lifted our souls, helping us better understand ourselves and one another. When the tides of injustice and hardship have seemed too great, melodies of hope have given us strength, and in moments of joy, powerful songs speak to the audacity that fuels our dreams. Through momentous change -- above the jangling discord of a people determined to write their own destiny and the consonance of great progress -- our music has remained a constant source of inspiration, bringing us together and empowering us to reach for what we know is possible. By honoring the timeless sounds that define our past and help transform our future, we celebrate not only the musicians who move us, but also the spirit of resilience and renewal they embody. This month, let us remember the essential role music plays in breaking the barriers of our time and guiding us toward a more inclusive and more equal tomorrow. NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2015 as African-American Music Appreciation Month. I call upon public officials, educators, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate activities and programs that raise awareness and foster appreciation of music that is composed, arranged, or performed by African Americans.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
Presidential Proclamation-- National Oceans Month, 2015
Sun, 31 May 2015 02:47
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 29, 2015
- - - - - - -
This summer, millions of Americans will take in the beauty and natural splendor of our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes. As destinations for recreation and tourism, these bodies of water rejuvenate our spirit and cultivate a love of our great outdoors. And no matter where you live or who you are, a healthy and thriving ocean is essential to all people all year. Our marine environments contribute to our food supply, bolster our economy, strengthen our national defense, and support important scientific research and innovation. They are some of humanity's greatest treasures and central to who we are as a people. During National Oceans Month, we celebrate these lifesustaining ecosystems, and we reaffirm our vital role as stewards of our planet.
Ensuring the long-term health, resilience, and productivity of our marine environments requires us to act to protect and preserve them in the face of a range of threats. Climate change is causing sea levels and ocean temperatures to rise, and these effects can harm coral reefs and force certain species to migrate. Carbon pollution is being absorbed by our oceans, causing them to acidify and changing entire ecosystems. And illegal fishing continues to threaten our global and economic security, as well as the sustainability of our world's fisheries.
My Administration is committed to doing all we can to combat these threats and leave our children and grandchildren clean and vibrant oceans. As part of my National Ocean Policy, we are creating a coordinated, science-based approach to managing our coasts and oceans, and we are focused on implementing specific, on-the-ground actions to improve our ocean economy and bolster ocean health. We continue to make meaningful progress toward ending overfishing, and the Federal Government is partnering with State, local, and tribal leaders to promote marine conservation. As President, I continue to use my authority to preserve our most precious ecosystems, including last year when I expanded the largest marine reserve in the world -- ensuring more of our pristine tropical marine environments are off limits to commercial resource extraction.
We are heirs to a vast expanse of oceans and waterways that have sustained our ancestors for centuries. As caretakers of our planet, we share an obligation to protect these magnificent ecosystems for generations to come. This month, let us work to do our part and recommit to leading the way toward a safer, cleaner, more stable world.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2015 as National Oceans Month. I call upon Americans to take action to protect, conserve, and restore our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
Presidential Proclamation - Great Outdoors Month, 2015
Sun, 31 May 2015 02:47
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 29, 2015
- - - - - - -
America's vast and varied landscapes have always been central to the character of our Nation and the story of our people. Their rugged beauty reflects our national history and heritage -- as pioneers who forged new paths and explorers who dared to venture into the unknown -- and continues to inspire new generations of outdoor enthusiasts. Our mountains and rivers are part of who we are, and they are the birthright of all our people. Today, one-third of all our Nation's land is publicly owned and set aside for the use and enjoyment of every American. These are the places that make our country great, and as heirs to this extraordinary legacy of conservation, we have an obligation to make sure our children and grandchildren can enjoy the everlasting bounty of the great outdoors.
Our Nation's public lands and waters fuel our economy and support our industries. Home to living laboratories and wondrous playgrounds, they spark boundless curiosity and innovation, and in the desolate wilderness, adventurers rediscover the spirit of independence that unites all Americans. As President, I am committed to ensuring every child in America -- regardless of who they are or where they live -- has the opportunity to explore these treasured spaces. That is why earlier this year I launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative, which will provide all fourth graders and their families with free admission to our National Parks and other Federal lands and waters for a full year. And I invite all Americans to "Find Your Park" and celebrate some of the most beautiful landscapes and waterscapes in the world.
As a Nation, we must work to safeguard nature's splendor for generations to come. Climate change threatens our lands and waters, as well as the health and well-being of future generations. That is why my Administration has taken commonsense actions to combat climate change, ensure the resilience of our natural resources, and protect our children. I am proud to have protected more than 260 million additional acres of public lands and waters -- more than any other President -- which includes the establishment or expansion of 16 National Monuments through my Executive authority. For more than a half-century, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped to protect these iconic places and make it easier for families to spend time outside. The Fund has advanced over 40,000 local projects by making critical investments, including in battlefields, National Parks, baseball fields, and community green spaces, and I continue to call for the full and permanent funding of this vital tool of environmental stewardship.
During Great Outdoors Month, Governors, communities, business leaders, and organizations will host thousands of events across the country to celebrate our unparalleled outdoors. I encourage Americans to participate in these activities and to take the time to experience the natural grandeur of our Nation. As we enjoy these magnificent places, let us rededicate ourselves to doing our part to preserve them for all our future explorers, adventurers, and environmental stewards.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2015 as Great Outdoors Month. I urge all Americans to explore the great outdoors and to uphold our Nation's legacy of conserving our lands and waters.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
Presidential Proclamation-- LGBT Pride Month, 2015
Sun, 31 May 2015 02:47
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 29, 2015
- - - - - - -
From the moment our Nation first came together to declare the fundamental truth that all men are created equal, courageous and dedicated patriots have fought to refine our founding promise and broaden democracy's reach. Over the course of more than two centuries of striving and sacrifice, our country has expanded civil rights and enshrined equal protections into our Constitution. Through struggle and setback, we see a common trajectory toward a more free and just society. But we are also reminded that we are not truly equal until every person is afforded the same rights and opportunities -- that when one of us experiences discrimination, it affects all of us -- and that our journey is not complete until our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.
Across our Nation, tremendous progress has been won by determined individuals who stood up, spoke out, and shared their stories. Earlier this year, because of my landmark Executive Order on LGBT workplace discrimination, protections for Federal contractors went into effect, guarding against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Federal Government is now leading by example, ensuring that our employees and contractors are judged by the quality of their work, not by who they love. And I will keep calling on the Congress to pass legislation so that all Americans are covered by these protections, no matter where they work.
In communities throughout the country, barriers that limit the potential of LGBT Americans have been torn down, but too many individuals continue to encounter discrimination and unfair treatment. My Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors because the overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that it can cause substantial harm. We understand the unique challenges faced by sexual and gender minorities -- especially transgender and gender non-conforming individuals -- and are taking steps to address them. And we recognize that families come in many shapes and sizes. Whether biological, foster, or adoptive, family acceptance is an important protective factor against suicide and harm for LGBTQ youth, and mental health experts have created resources to support family communication and involvement.
For countless young people, it is not enough to simply say it gets better; we must take action too. We continue to address bullying and harassment in our classrooms, ensuring every student has a nurturing environment in which to learn and grow. Across the Federal Government, we are working every day to unlock the opportunities all LGBT individuals deserve and the resources and care they need. Too many LGBTQ youth face homelessness and too many older individuals struggle to find welcoming and affordable housing; that is why my Administration is striving to ensure they have equal access to safe and supportive housing throughout life. We are updating our National HIV/AIDS Strategy to better address the disproportionate burden HIV has on communities of gay and bisexual men and transgender women. We continue to extend family and spousal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. And because we know LGBT rights are human rights, we are championing protections and support for LGBT persons around the world.
All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence, and protected against discrimination, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, we celebrate the proud legacy LGBT individuals have woven into the fabric of our Nation, we honor those who have fought to perfect our Union, and we continue our work to build a society where every child grows up knowing that their country supports them, is proud of them, and has a place for them exactly as they are.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2015 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
Theodore Kasczinski "Industrial Society and Its Future"
Smith Mundt Act - A reminder that you are living in a Smith-Mudt Act repealed media landscape
NDAA and Overturning of Smith-Mundt Act
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA) allows for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to be released within U.S. borders and strikes down a long-time ban on the dissemination of such material in the country.[14][15][16]
Propaganda in the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 21 Sep 2014 15:00
Propaganda in the United States is propaganda spread by government and media entities within the United States. Propaganda is information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to influence opinions. Propaganda is not only in advertising; it is also in radio, newspaper, posters, books, and anything else that might be sent out to the widespread public.
Domestic[edit]World War I[edit]The first large-scale use of propaganda by the U.S. government came during World War I. The government enlisted the help of citizens and children to help promote war bonds and stamps to help stimulate the economy. To keep the prices of war supplies down, the U.S. government produced posters that encouraged people to reduce waste and grow their own vegetables in "victory gardens." The public skepticism that was generated by the heavy-handed tactics of the Committee on Public Information would lead the postwar government to officially abandon the use of propaganda.[1]
World War II[edit]During World War II the U.S. officially had no propaganda, but the Roosevelt government used means to circumvent this official line. One such propaganda tool was the publicly owned but government funded Writers' War Board (WWB). The activities of the WWB were so extensive that it has been called the "greatest propaganda machine in history".[1]Why We Fight is a famous series of US government propaganda films made to justify US involvement in World War II.
In 1944 (lasting until 1948) prominent US policy makers launched a domestic propaganda campaign aimed at convincing the U.S. public to agree to a harsh peace for the German people, for example by removing the common view of the German people and the Nazi party as separate entities.[2] The core in this campaign was the Writers' War Board which was closely associated with the Roosevelt administration.[2]
Another means was the United States Office of War Information that Roosevelt established in June 1942, whose mandate was to promote understanding of the war policies under the director Elmer Davies. It dealt with posters, press, movies, exhibitions, and produced often slanted material conforming to US wartime purposes. Other large and influential non-governmental organizations during the war and immediate post war period were the Society for the Prevention of World War III and the Council on Books in Wartime.
Cold War[edit]During the Cold War, the U.S. government produced vast amounts of propaganda against communism and the Soviet bloc. Much of this propaganda was directed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under J. Edgar Hoover, who himself wrote the anti-communist tract Masters of Deceit. The FBI's COINTELPRO arm solicited journalists to produce fake news items discrediting communists and affiliated groups, such as H. Bruce Franklin and the Venceremos Organization.
War on Drugs[edit]The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, originally established by the National Narcotics Leadership Act of 1988,[3][4] but now conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy under the Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998,[5] is a domestic propaganda campaign designed to "influence the attitudes of the public and the news media with respect to drug abuse" and for "reducing and preventing drug abuse among young people in the United States".[6][7] The Media Campaign cooperates with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and other government and non-government organizations.[8]
Iraq War[edit]In early 2002, the U.S. Department of Defense launched an information operation, colloquially referred to as the Pentagon military analyst program.[9] The goal of the operation is "to spread the administrations's talking points on Iraq by briefing ... retired commanders for network and cable television appearances," where they have been presented as independent analysts.[10] On 22 May 2008, after this program was revealed in the New York Times, the House passed an amendment that would make permanent a domestic propaganda ban that until now has been enacted annually in the military authorization bill.[11]
The Shared values initiative was a public relations campaign that was intended to sell a "new" America to Muslims around the world by showing that American Muslims were living happily and freely, without persecution, in post-9/11 America.[12] Funded by the United States Department of State, the campaign created a public relations front group known as Council of American Muslims for Understanding (CAMU). The campaign was divided in phases; the first of which consisted of five mini-documentaries for television, radio, and print with shared values messages for key Muslim countries.[13]
NDAA and Overturning of Smith-Mundt Act[edit]The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA) allows for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to be released within U.S. borders and strikes down a long-time ban on the dissemination of such material in the country.[14][15][16]
Ad Council[edit]The Ad Council, an American non-profit organization that distributes public service announcements on behalf of various private and federal government agency sponsors, has been labeled as "little more than a domestic propaganda arm of the federal government" given the Ad Council's historically close collaboration with the President of the United States and the federal government.[17]
International[edit]Through several international broadcasting operations, the US disseminates American cultural information, official positions on international affairs, and daily summaries of international news. These operations fall under the International Broadcasting Bureau, the successor of the United States Information Agency, established in 1953. IBB's operations include Voice of America, Radio Liberty, Alhurra and other programs. They broadcast mainly to countries where the United States finds that information about international events is limited, either due to poor infrastructure or government censorship. The Smith-Mundt Act prohibits the Voice of America from disseminating information to US citizens that was produced specifically for a foreign audience.
During the Cold War the US ran covert propaganda campaigns in countries that appeared likely to become Soviet satellites, such as Italy, Afghanistan, and Chile.
Recently The Pentagon announced the creation of a new unit aimed at spreading propaganda about supposedly "inaccurate" stories being spread about the Iraq War. These "inaccuracies" have been blamed on the enemy trying to decrease support for the war. Donald Rumsfeld has been quoted as saying these stories are something that keeps him up at night.[18]
Psychological operations[edit]The US military defines psychological operations, or PSYOP, as:
planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence the emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.[19]
The Smith-Mundt Act, adopted in 1948, explicitly forbids information and psychological operations aimed at the US public.[20][21][22] Nevertheless, the current easy access to news and information from around the globe, makes it difficult to guarantee PSYOP programs do not reach the US public. Or, in the words of Army Col. James A. Treadwell, who commanded the U.S. military psyops unit in Iraq in 2003, in the Washington Post:
There's always going to be a certain amount of bleed-over with the global information environment.[23]
Agence France Presse reported on U.S. propaganda campaigns that:
The Pentagon acknowledged in a newly declassified document that the US public is increasingly exposed to propaganda disseminated overseas in psychological operations.[24]
Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved the document referred to, which is titled "Information Operations Roadmap." [22][24] The document acknowledges the Smith-Mundt Act, but fails to offer any way of limiting the effect PSYOP programs have on domestic audiences.[20][21][25]
Several incidents in 2003 were documented by Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel, which he saw as information-warfare campaigns that were intended for "foreign populations and the American public." Truth from These Podia,[26] as the treatise was called, reported that the way the Iraq war was fought resembled a political campaign, stressing the message instead of the truth.[22]
See also[edit]References[edit]^ abThomas Howell, The Writers' War Board: U.S. Domestic Propaganda in World War II, Historian, Volume 59 Issue 4, Pages 795 - 813^ abSteven Casey, (2005), The Campaign to sell a harsh peace for Germany to the American public, 1944 - 1948, [online]. London: LSE Research Online. [Available online at] Originally published in History, 90 (297). pp. 62-92 (2005) Blackwell Publishing^National Narcotics Leadership Act of 1988 of the Anti''Drug Abuse Act of 1988, Pub.L. 100''726, 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. § 1726^Barstow, David (2008-04-20). "Message Machine: Behind Analysts, the Pentagon's Hidden Hand". New York Times. ^Sessions, David (2008-04-20). "Onward T.V. Soldiers: The New York Times exposes a multi-armed Pentagon message machine". Slate. ^Barstow, David (2008-05-24). "2 Inquiries Set on Pentagon Publicity Effort". New York Times. ^Rampton, Sheldon (October 17, 2007). "Shared Values Revisited". Center for Media and Democracy. ^"U.S. Reaches Out to Muslim World with Shared Values Initiative". January 16, 2003.
Before one enters on the Execution of one's Office, one shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:— “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Glenn Greenwald Wraps Up the ''Snowden'' Psyop And Tacitly Advocates for the ''Freedom Act''
Fri, 29 May 2015 16:46
by Scott Creighton
the time has come '-- indeed, it is long overdue '-- for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of American business to be marshalled against those who would destroy it. Lewis Powell memo, 1971
The manufactured hero psyop is drawing to a close while it's main spokesman and front-man, Glenn Greenwald, is tacitly supporting the USA Freedom Act as a sort of ''better than nothing'' fix to the problem.
During his latest interview with ACLU Legal Director, Jameel Jaffer, Glenn sounds an awful lot like James Sensenbrenner, author of the Freedom Act and the Patriot Act as well.
''If the perfect defeats the good, then bad prevails,'' said Representative James Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, an author of the Patriot Act who is now leading efforts to change it (and the author of the USA Freedom Act).
GREENWALD: Right. Even if it's a step in the right direction (the USA Freedom Act) it's a very small step in the right direction. (Greenwald said this in an interview with Jameel Jaffer yesterday)
NOTE TO GLENN: No. It is not a step in the right direction unless of course by ''right'' you mean ''far-right fascist'' direction and in that case, it's a HUGE step in the ''right'' direction.
Currently the USA Freedom Act is being amended behind closed doors.
What is going to emerge on Sunday when they hold their emergency ''crisis'' sessions of both the Senate and the House of Representatives will be even worse than what I and many others have been reporting on since it's inception.
Right now we know of several changes that they are going to make to the ''Freedom'' Act that aren't very good at all.
They will extend the grace period of collection by the government (NSA) from 180 days to as much as two years.They want to make the ''lone wolf'' provision permanent.They want to make the ''roving authorities'' permanent.They want to give Big Telecom total immunity from any laws they violate with regard to our constitutional rights.Does that sound like a step in the right direction to anyone?
Anyone at all?
Anyone other than Glenn Greenwald, that is?
I didn't think so.
Now that this whole thing is coming to a speedy conclusion, now that we have ''had the debate'' as Glenn suggests (which of course, we haven't), I think we should take stock in exactly where we are'... where we ended up after this so-called ''debate''
Keep in mind, the biggest provision of the USA ''Freedom'' Act is it privatizes the bulk collection of your personal information and data. it privatizes it is such a way as too allow the companies that hold it to do with it as they see fit. That's why they have to include blanket immunity for them similar to the retroactive immunity they gave Big Telecom back in 2008 for scooping up the data in the first place and giving it to the NSA and others.
Now, if you think we have had this debate and ended up somewhere new with this ''Freedom'' Act, I want you to read this:
''The National Security Agency is reviewing whether to stop collecting a vast stockpile of records of Americans' telephone calls '-- the most controversial component of its surveillance programs'-- by allowing telecommunications companies to retain the data until U.S. intelligence officials have a specific reason to review it for possible connections to terror plots, U.S. officials said Tuesday
The NSA's director, Gen. Keith Alexander, disclosed the review during a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, saying the agency and the FBI are jointly re-examining ''how we actually do this program.''
Asked by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., if the records of phone calls '' known as metadata '-- could be left in the hands of telecommunications firms and then reviewed only when there is a suspicion ''of a foreign terrorist connection,'' Alexander replied: ''I do think that that's something that we've agreed to look at and that we'll do. It's just going to take some time. We want to do it right.'' NBC News
That ladies and gentlemen, was from 2013. Specifically, June 19, 2013.
The ''Edward Snowden'' psyop with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras went public on June 6, 2013.
Essentially here we are, two years after the ''Snowden'' leaks and we have ended up in the exact same place, with the exact same plan that the NSA's director, Keith Alexander, suggested days after the story broke: privatizing the surveillance state.
But this isn't the first time someone thought we should privatize unconstitutional and illegal mass surveillance.
That first effort was something called CISPA and it wasn't very popular at all.
Well, it wasn't popular with the general population because people back then seemed to have a problem with allowing Big Business the freedom to turn into Big Brother while getting paid a crap-load of tax-payers dollars for doing it.
Of course, Big Business just LOVED the idea of CISPA and they did whatever they could to make sure their employees in congress got the message.
April 15th, 2013'... right before this whole thing kicked off and Glenn Greenwald was contacted by Edward Snowden, 200 senior IBM executives hit D.C. like a plague of locusts to push them to pass the new CISPA bill.
''The message we're going to give [lawmakers] is going to be a very simple, clear message: support the passage of CISPA,'' he later added. The Hill
IBM is not the only megacorp pressing congress to pass this bill. In fact, when you start looking at the proponents of it, you will find SEVERAL of the companies directly linked to the Edward Snowden psyop.
''CISPA had garnered favor from corporations and lobbying groups such as Microsoft, Facebook, AT&T, IBM, Apple Inc. , Intel, Oracle Corporation, Symantec, and Verizon and the United States Chamber of Commerce, which look on it as a simple and effective means of sharing important cyber threat information with the government. Google has not taken a public position on the bill but has shown previous support for it'...'' List of companies who have sent letters of support for CISPA since 2012
You will also find major players like the Business Roundtable in support of CISPA as well as:
In all, with the aligned companies that make up the various Roundtables and alliances, there are 800 corporations that support the passage of CISPA.'' American Everyman, June 19, 2013
In Nov. of 2013, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and AOL all got together to write a letter to congress saying they fully supported the USA Freedom Act which was introduced in Oct.
The funny thing is, the Freedom Act was written by the same guy who wrote the Patriot Act. Something that Mr. Greenwald doesn't ever mention.
The list of Big Business supporters of the Freedom Act continues to grow as you can imagine.
Mike Rogers, the guy who wrote the original CISPA bill, endorsed the Freedom Act last year.
''The USA Freedom Act provides the meaningful change to the telephone metadata program that Members of the House have been seeking. If we had the fortune of having a Commander in Chief firmly dedicated to the preservation of this program as is, we may have been able to protect it in its entirety. With that not being the case, I believe this is a workable compromise that protects the core function of a counterterrorism program we know has saved lives around the world. I urge Members to support this legislation.'' Mike Rogers
Do you know who else wanted CISPA , i.e. the privatized mass surveillance program? Pierre Omidyar, the eBay billionaire who just happens to be Glenn Greenwald's boss right now over at the Intercept. Not only does he support this privatization plan, he also seems to support color revolutions in places like Ukraine.
The manufactured hero ''Snowden'' psyop has always been about readying the American people to accept a version of CISPA without being made fully aware of what they were supporting.
''Snowden'' was a character they created, a young, attractive, seemingly intelligent ''hero'' who bucked the system and spilled his guts in order to tell the people the truth so we could ''have the discussion'' and make up our own minds about the need to revamp the security state in this country.
He was hiding in China then he was hiding in a small little transition area in a Russian airport then he was hiding in Moscow. Always hiding but always available for any and all establishment journalists who cared to find him.
''I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word, in that I lived and worked undercover, overseas '-- pretending to work in a job that I'm not '-- and even being assigned a name that was not mine... What they are trying to do is that they are trying to use one position to distract from the totality of my experience, which is: I've worked for the Central Intelligence Agency '' undercover, overseas, I've worked for the National Security Agency '' undercover, overseas, and I've worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency as a lecturer at the joint counter-intelligence training,'' ''Edward Snowden'' from RT
''Snowden'' was a character they created in order to sell their re-branded version of CISPA. The name they chose for their character is significant. It's a little jab at us folks with enough sense to look behind the curtain.
'''... by seeing Snowden's entrails spilling over the plane (he spilled his guts), he feels that ''Man was matter, that was Snowden's secret. Drop him out a window and he'll fall. Set fire to him and he'll burn. Bury him and he'll rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit gone, man is garbage.'' Wiki page on Snowden character from Catch 22
That's what a whistle-blower does, isn't it? Spill his guts?
We've come to the end of the manufactured hero story. It lasted as long as it needed to in spite of the best efforts of us ''Edward Snowden Truthers'' out here.
With the deadline fast approaching, their manufactured crisis is ready for the big compromise: passage of the re-branded CISPA known as the USA Freedom Act.
Their manufactured hero is about ready to ride off into the sunset and their front-man, their own ShamWow salesman, Glenn Greenwald, is still working the margins trying to make sure everyone is set and ready for the step in the ''right'' direction.
I guess it's a good thing that they killed Aaron Swartz back in January of 2013 when they did. He certainly wouldn't have been fooled by the ''Freedom'' Act or ''Snowden'' either for that matter.
He would have had the resources and the tenacity to help turn the tide and expose this fascist piece of legislation so that folks like Greenwald could never have gotten away with pretending he didn't know what he was tacitly supporting.
Looking back over the years I'm kinda sad that we've come this far with so few who understand what this ''comprise'' really means. That's not a compromise at all and in fact, it's what Big Business and the NSA have wanted from the very beginning.
I guess that means folks like myself have failed. It would have been nice to have had someone like Aaron out here on the fringes with us. I can't help but feel we let him down.
So ends the manufacture hero story of Edward Snowden. So begins the new age of unshackled and unrestrained corporate mass surveillance in the U.S. brought to you by that same manufactured hero story and it's main mouthpiece, Pierre Omidyar's Glenn Greenwald.
We gave it a shot anyway.
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Filed under: Aaron Swartz, Glenn Greenwald, NSA "Leak" Scandal, Scott Creighton, USA Freedom Act
U.N. Report Asserts Encryption as a Human Right in the Digital Age
Fri, 29 May 2015 16:49
Encryption is not the refuge of scoundrels, as Obama administration law-enforcement officials loudly proclaim '' it is an essential tool needed to protect the right of freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age, a new United Nations report concludes.
Encryption that makes a communication unintelligible to anyone but the intended recipient creates ''a zone of privacy to protect opinion and belief,'' says the report from David Kaye, who as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression is essentially the U.N.'s free speech watchdog.
The significance of encryption extends well beyond political speech, Kaye writes. ''The ability to search the web, develop ideas and communicate securely may be the only way in which many can explore basic aspects of identity, such as one's gender, religion, ethnicity, national origin or sexuality.''
Encryption, like anonymity, is essential to artists, journalists, whistleblowers, and many other classes of people, the report says.
And far from banning or weakening encryption, governments should embrace and strengthen it, Kaye writes. He specifically urges the U.S. Congress to ''prohibit the Government from requiring companies to weaken product security or insert back-door access measures.''
Obama administration officials have been advocating for encryption with some sort of built-in measure that law enforcement could circumvent, either an intentional weakness that creates a ''back door,'' or some sort of split ''master key''.
Newly-installed Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday became the latest to engage in fear-mongering, saying she had ''grave concerns'' about encryption's use by ''people whose sworn duty is to harm Americans here and abroad.''
National Security Agency director Mike Rogers took a slightly more nuanced view on Wednesday, ZDNet reported. ''You're not going to hear me say that encryption is a bad thing. I don't think it is a bad thing. Encryption is not bad. Encryption is a fundamental part of the future; I think it would be ridiculous to pretend otherwise,'' Rogers told a cyberwarfare conference in Estonia.
But he expressed his desire for a legal framework that would give law enforcement access, asking: ''Can we create some mechanism where within this legal framework there's a means to access information that directly relates to the security of our respective nations, even as at the same time we are mindful we have got to protect the rights of our individual citizens?''
Kaye's answer is: No. He concludes from his research that ''compromised encryption cannot be kept secret from those with the skill to find and exploit the weak points, whether State or non-State, legitimate or criminal.'' Thus: ''In the contemporary technological environment, intentionally compromising encryption, even for arguably legitimate purposes, weakens everyone's security online.''
And Kaye points out that law enforcement officials ''have not demonstrated that criminal or terrorist use of encryption serves as an insuperable barrier to law enforcement objectives.''
Indeed, FBI Director James Comey gave a much-quoted speech last fall about how increasingly common cell-phone encryption could lead law enforcement to a ''very dark place'' where it ''misses out'' on crucial evidence to nail criminals. But the examples he then gave failed the laugh test.
The United Nation's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights appoints expert ''special rapporteurs'' to be their eyes and ears when it comes to key human rights issues. Kaye, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, began his three-year term as the rapporteur for freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014.
His report also warns that state prohibitions of anonymity online '' such as required real-name registration for online activity, SIM card registration, or banning of anonymity tools such as Tor '-- interfere with the right to freedom of expression.
Encryption advocates hailed the report. ''This landmark report shows how fundamental '-- and necessary '-- encryption is for exercising freedom of expression,'' said Access Senior Policy Counsel Peter Micek. ''It's a sober rebuke of baseless fear-mongering from those who say encryption only helps criminals and terrorists.''
(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)
Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Obama says 'handful of senators' standing in way of U.S. surveillance bill | Reuters
Fri, 29 May 2015 21:15
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Memorial Day observance at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia May 25, 2015.
Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON U.S. President Barack Obama warned on Friday that surveillance powers used to prevent attacks could lapse at midnight on Sunday unless "a handful of senators" stop standing in the way of legislation.
Obama told reporters in the Oval Office that he has told U.S. Senate leader Mitch McConnell and other senators that he expects them to take action swiftly on a bill passed by the House of Representatives that would renew certain powers and reform the bulk collection of phone data.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
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Agenda 21
Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science? - National Geographic Magazine
Thu, 28 May 2015 13:57
There's a scene in Stanley Kubrick's comic masterpiece Dr. Strangelove in which Jack D. Ripper, an American general who's gone rogue and ordered a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, unspools his paranoid worldview'--and the explanation for why he drinks ''only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure grain alcohol'''--to Lionel Mandrake, a dizzy-with-anxiety group captain in the Royal Air Force.
Ripper: Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation? Fluoridation of water?
Mandrake: Ah, yes, I have heard of that, Jack. Yes, yes.
Ripper: Well, do you know what it is?
Mandrake: No. No, I don't know what it is. No.
Ripper: Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face?
The movie came out in 1964, by which time the health benefits of fluoridation had been thoroughly established, and antifluoridation conspiracy theories could be the stuff of comedy. So you might be surprised to learn that, half a century later, fluoridation continues to incite fear and paranoia. In 2013 citizens in Portland, Oregon, one of only a few major American cities that don't fluoridate their water, blocked a plan by local officials to do so. Opponents didn't like the idea of the government adding ''chemicals'' to their water. They claimed that fluoride could be harmful to human health.
Actually fluoride is a natural mineral that, in the weak concentrations used in public drinking water systems, hardens tooth enamel and prevents tooth decay'--a cheap and safe way to improve dental health for everyone, rich or poor, conscientious brusher or not. That's the scientific and medical consensus.
To which some people in Portland, echoing antifluoridation activists around the world, reply: We don't believe you.
We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge'--from the safety of fluoride and vaccines to the reality of climate change'--faces organized and often furious opposition. Empowered by their own sources of information and their own interpretations of research, doubters have declared war on the consensus of experts. There are so many of these controversies these days, you'd think a diabolical agency had put something in the water to make people argumentative. And there's so much talk about the trend these days'--in books, articles, and academic conferences'--that science doubt itself has become a pop-culture meme. In the recent movie Interstellar, set in a futuristic, downtrodden America where NASA has been forced into hiding, school textbooks say the Apollo moon landings were faked.
In a sense all this is not surprising. Our lives are permeated by science and technology as never before. For many of us this new world is wondrous, comfortable, and rich in rewards'--but also more complicated and sometimes unnerving. We now face risks we can't easily analyze.
We're asked to accept, for example, that it's safe to eat food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because, the experts point out, there's no evidence that it isn't and no reason to believe that altering genes precisely in a lab is more dangerous than altering them wholesale through traditional breeding. But to some people the very idea of transferring genes between species conjures up mad scientists running amok'--and so, two centuries after Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, they talk about Frankenfood.
The world crackles with real and imaginary hazards, and distinguishing the former from the latter isn't easy. Should we be afraid that the Ebola virus, which is spread only by direct contact with bodily fluids, will mutate into an airborne superplague? The scientific consensus says that's extremely unlikely: No virus has ever been observed to completely change its mode of transmission in humans, and there's zero evidence that the latest strain of Ebola is any different. But type ''airborne Ebola'' into an Internet search engine, and you'll enter a dystopia where this virus has almost supernatural powers, including the power to kill us all.
In this bewildering world we have to decide what to believe and how to act on that. In principle that's what science is for. ''Science is not a body of facts,'' says geophysicist Marcia McNutt, who once headed the U.S. Geological Survey and is now editor of Science, the prestigious journal. ''Science is a method for deciding whether what we choose to believe has a basis in the laws of nature or not.'' But that method doesn't come naturally to most of us. And so we run into trouble, again and again.
Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division
Square Intuitions Die HardThat the Earth is round has been known since antiquity'--Columbus knew he wouldn't sail off the edge of the world'--but alternative geographies persisted even after circumnavigations had become common. This 1893 map by Orlando Ferguson, a South Dakota businessman, is a loopy variation on 19th-century flat-Earth beliefs. Flat-Earthers held that the planet was centered on the North Pole and bounded by a wall of ice, with the sun, moon, and planets a few hundred miles above the surface. Science often demands that we discount our direct sensory experiences'--such as seeing the sun cross the sky as if circling the Earth'--in favor of theories that challenge our beliefs about our place in the universe.
The trouble goes way back, of course. The scientific method leads us to truths that are less than self-evident, often mind-blowing, and sometimes hard to swallow. In the early 17th century, when Galileo claimed that the Earth spins on its axis and orbits the sun, he wasn't just rejecting church doctrine. He was asking people to believe something that defied common sense'--because it sure looks like the sun's going around the Earth, and you can't feel the Earth spinning. Galileo was put on trial and forced to recant. Two centuries later Charles Darwin escaped that fate. But his idea that all life on Earth evolved from a primordial ancestor and that we humans are distant cousins of apes, whales, and even deep-sea mollusks is still a big ask for a lot of people. So is another 19th-century notion: that carbon dioxide, an invisible gas that we all exhale all the time and that makes up less than a tenth of one percent of the atmosphere, could be affecting Earth's climate.
Even when we intellectually accept these precepts of science, we subconsciously cling to our intuitions'--what researchers call our naive beliefs. A recent study by Andrew Shtulman of Occidental College showed that even students with an advanced science education had a hitch in their mental gait when asked to affirm or deny that humans are descended from sea animals or that Earth goes around the sun. Both truths are counterintuitive. The students, even those who correctly marked ''true,'' were slower to answer those questions than questions about whether humans are descended from tree-dwelling creatures (also true but easier to grasp) or whether the moon goes around the Earth (also true but intuitive). Shtulman's research indicates that as we become scientifically literate, we repress our naive beliefs but never eliminate them entirely. They lurk in our brains, chirping at us as we try to make sense of the world.
Most of us do that by relying on personal experience and anecdotes, on stories rather than statistics. We might get a prostate-specific antigen test, even though it's no longer generally recommended, because it caught a close friend's cancer'--and we pay less attention to statistical evidence, painstakingly compiled through multiple studies, showing that the test rarely saves lives but triggers many unnecessary surgeries. Or we hear about a cluster of cancer cases in a town with a hazardous waste dump, and we assume pollution caused the cancers. Yet just because two things happened together doesn't mean one caused the other, and just because events are clustered doesn't mean they're not still random.
We have trouble digesting randomness; our brains crave pattern and meaning. Science warns us, however, that we can deceive ourselves. To be confident there's a causal connection between the dump and the cancers, you need statistical analysis showing that there are many more cancers than would be expected randomly, evidence that the victims were exposed to chemicals from the dump, and evidence that the chemicals really can cause cancer.
Photo: Bettman/Corbis
Evolution on TrialIn 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee, where John Scopes was standing trial for teaching evolution in high school, a creationist bookseller hawked his wares. Modern biology makes no sense without the concept of evolution, but religious activists in the United States continue to demand that creationism be taught as an alternative in biology class. When science conflicts with a person's core beliefs, it usually loses.
Even for scientists, the scientific method is a hard discipline. Like the rest of us, they're vulnerable to what they call confirmation bias'--the tendency to look for and see only evidence that confirms what they already believe. But unlike the rest of us, they submit their ideas to formal peer review before publishing them. Once their results are published, if they're important enough, other scientists will try to reproduce them'--and, being congenitally skeptical and competitive, will be very happy to announce that they don't hold up. Scientific results are always provisional, susceptible to being overturned by some future experiment or observation. Scientists rarely proclaim an absolute truth or absolute certainty. Uncertainty is inevitable at the frontiers of knowledge.
Sometimes scientists fall short of the ideals of the scientific method. Especially in biomedical research, there's a disturbing trend toward results that can't be reproduced outside the lab that found them, a trend that has prompted a push for greater transparency about how experiments are conducted. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, worries about the ''secret sauce'''--specialized procedures, customized software, quirky ingredients'--that researchers don't share with their colleagues. But he still has faith in the larger enterprise.
''Science will find the truth,'' Collins says. ''It may get it wrong the first time and maybe the second time, but ultimately it will find the truth.'' That provisional quality of science is another thing a lot of people have trouble with. To some climate change skeptics, for example, the fact that a few scientists in the 1970s were worried (quite reasonably, it seemed at the time) about the possibility of a coming ice age is enough to discredit the concern about global warming now.
Last fall the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which consists of hundreds of scientists operating under the auspices of the United Nations, released its fifth report in the past 25 years. This one repeated louder and clearer than ever the consensus of the world's scientists: The planet's surface temperature has risen by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 130 years, and human actions, including the burning of fossil fuels, are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the warming since the mid-20th century. Many people in the United States'--a far greater percentage than in other countries'--retain doubts about that consensus or believe that climate activists are using the threat of global warming to attack the free market and industrial society generally. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, one of the most powerful Republican voices on environmental matters, has long declared global warming a hoax.
The idea that hundreds of scientists from all over the world would collaborate on such a vast hoax is laughable'--scientists love to debunk one another. It's very clear, however, that organizations funded in part by the fossil fuel industry have deliberately tried to undermine the public's understanding of the scientific consensus by promoting a few skeptics.
The news media give abundant attention to such mavericks, naysayers, professional controversialists, and table thumpers. The media would also have you believe that science is full of shocking discoveries made by lone geniuses. Not so. The (boring) truth is that it usually advances incrementally, through the steady accretion of data and insights gathered by many people over many years. So it has been with the consensus on climate change. That's not about to go poof with the next thermometer reading.
But industry PR, however misleading, isn't enough to explain why only 40 percent of Americans, according to the most recent poll from the Pew Research Center, accept that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming.
The ''science communication problem,'' as it's blandly called by the scientists who study it, has yielded abundant new research into how people decide what to believe'--and why they so often don't accept the scientific consensus. It's not that they can't grasp it, according to Dan Kahan of Yale University. In one study he asked 1,540 Americans, a representative sample, to rate the threat of climate change on a scale of zero to ten. Then he correlated that with the subjects' science literacy. He found that higher literacy was associated with stronger views'--at both ends of the spectrum. Science literacy promoted polarization on climate, not consensus. According to Kahan, that's because people tend to use scientific knowledge to reinforce beliefs that have already been shaped by their worldview.
Americans fall into two basic camps, Kahan says. Those with a more ''egalitarian'' and ''communitarian'' mind-set are generally suspicious of industry and apt to think it's up to something dangerous that calls for government regulation; they're likely to see the risks of climate change. In contrast, people with a ''hierarchical'' and ''individualistic'' mind-set respect leaders of industry and don't like government interfering in their affairs; they're apt to reject warnings about climate change, because they know what accepting them could lead to'--some kind of tax or regulation to limit emissions.
In the U.S., climate change somehow has become a litmus test that identifies you as belonging to one or the other of these two antagonistic tribes. When we argue about it, Kahan says, we're actually arguing about who we are, what our crowd is. We're thinking, People like us believe this. People like that do not believe this. For a hierarchical individualist, Kahan says, it's not irrational to reject established climate science: Accepting it wouldn't change the world, but it might get him thrown out of his tribe.
''Take a barber in a rural town in South Carolina,'' Kahan has written. ''Is it a good idea for him to implore his customers to sign a petition urging Congress to take action on climate change? No. If he does, he will find himself out of a job, just as his former congressman, Bob Inglis, did when he himself proposed such action.''
Science appeals to our rational brain, but our beliefs are motivated largely by emotion, and the biggest motivation is remaining tight with our peers. ''We're all in high school. We've never left high school,'' says Marcia McNutt. ''People still have a need to fit in, and that need to fit in is so strong that local values and local opinions are always trumping science. And they will continue to trump science, especially when there is no clear downside to ignoring science.''
Meanwhile the Internet makes it easier than ever for climate skeptics and doubters of all kinds to find their own information and experts. Gone are the days when a small number of powerful institutions'--elite universities, encyclopedias, major news organizations, even National Geographic'--served as gatekeepers of scientific information. The Internet has democratized information, which is a good thing. But along with cable TV, it has made it possible to live in a ''filter bubble'' that lets in only the information with which you already agree.
How to penetrate the bubble? How to convert climate skeptics? Throwing more facts at them doesn't help. Liz Neeley, who helps train scientists to be better communicators at an organization called Compass, says that people need to hear from believers they can trust, who share their fundamental values. She has personal experience with this. Her father is a climate change skeptic and gets most of his information on the issue from conservative media. In exasperation she finally confronted him: ''Do you believe them or me?'' She told him she believes the scientists who research climate change and knows many of them personally. ''If you think I'm wrong,'' she said, ''then you're telling me that you don't trust me.'' Her father's stance on the issue softened. But it wasn't the facts that did it.
If you're a rationalist, there's something a little dispiriting about all this. In Kahan's descriptions of how we decide what to believe, what we decide sometimes sounds almost incidental. Those of us in the science-communication business are as tribal as anyone else, he told me. We believe in scientific ideas not because we have truly evaluated all the evidence but because we feel an affinity for the scientific community. When I mentioned to Kahan that I fully accept evolution, he said, ''Believing in evolution is just a description about you. It's not an account of how you reason.''
Maybe'--except that evolution actually happened. Biology is incomprehensible without it. There aren't really two sides to all these issues. Climate change is happening. Vaccines really do save lives. Being right does matter'--and the science tribe has a long track record of getting things right in the end. Modern society is built on things it got right.
Doubting science also has consequences. The people who believe vaccines cause autism'--often well educated and affluent, by the way'--are undermining ''herd immunity'' to such diseases as whooping cough and measles. The anti-vaccine movement has been going strong since the prestigious British medical journal the Lancet published a study in 1998 linking a common vaccine to autism. The journal later retracted the study, which was thoroughly discredited. But the notion of a vaccine-autism connection has been endorsed by celebrities and reinforced through the usual Internet filters. (Anti-vaccine activist and actress Jenny McCarthy famously said on the Oprah Winfrey Show, ''The University of Google is where I got my degree from.'')
In the climate debate the consequences of doubt are likely global and enduring. In the U.S., climate change skeptics have achieved their fundamental goal of halting legislative action to combat global warming. They haven't had to win the debate on the merits; they've merely had to fog the room enough to keep laws governing greenhouse gas emissions from being enacted.
Some environmental activists want scientists to emerge from their ivory towers and get more involved in the policy battles. Any scientist going that route needs to do so carefully, says Liz Neeley. ''That line between science communication and advocacy is very hard to step back from,'' she says. In the debate over climate change the central allegation of the skeptics is that the science saying it's real and a serious threat is politically tinged, driven by environmental activism and not hard data. That's not true, and it slanders honest scientists. But it becomes more likely to be seen as plausible if scientists go beyond their professional expertise and begin advocating specific policies.
It's their very detachment, what you might call the cold-bloodedness of science, that makes science the killer app. It's the way science tells us the truth rather than what we'd like the truth to be. Scientists can be as dogmatic as anyone else'--but their dogma is always wilting in the hot glare of new research. In science it's not a sin to change your mind when the evidence demands it. For some people, the tribe is more important than the truth; for the best scientists, the truth is more important than the tribe.
Scientific thinking has to be taught, and sometimes it's not taught well, McNutt says. Students come away thinking of science as a collection of facts, not a method. Shtulman's research has shown that even many college students don't really understand what evidence is. The scientific method doesn't come naturally'--but if you think about it, neither does democracy. For most of human history neither existed. We went around killing each other to get on a throne, praying to a rain god, and for better and much worse, doing things pretty much as our ancestors did.
Now we have incredibly rapid change, and it's scary sometimes. It's not all progress. Our science has made us the dominant organisms, with all due respect to ants and blue-green algae, and we're changing the whole planet. Of course we're right to ask questions about some of the things science and technology allow us to do. ''Everybody should be questioning,'' says McNutt. ''That's a hallmark of a scientist. But then they should use the scientific method, or trust people using the scientific method, to decide which way they fall on those questions.'' We need to get a lot better at finding answers, because it's certain the questions won't be getting any simpler.
Washington Post science writer Joel Achenbach has contributed to National Geographic since 1998. Photographer Richard Barnes's last feature was the September 2014 cover story on Nero.
Climate Change Indoctrination Goes All-In At A School Near You'...
Fri, 29 May 2015 16:47
The new science curriculum has arrived, and it is the most aggressive Big Government Climate Change indoctrination plan yet. Starting as early as Kindergarten, American school children will be made to denounce all things carbon-related, including keeping tabs on how large their own family carbon footprint is. Billions are being spent to mold the pliable minds of American youth so that those who question the cult of Climate Change will soon go the way of the dinosaurs'...
This isn't science. It is politically-generated propaganda disguised as education.
The ''science'' on climate change is hardly settled and therein we find a terrible loss for students who could actually learn the concepts of data review, debate, and fact-based conclusion. Instead, the debate is being terminated, minds are being closed, and the will of the federal government agencies responsible for dictating the science curriculum is being force-fed in the same manner as all dictatorial regimes throughout history.
Actual science on the subject of the earth's climate indicates human intervention is little more than arrogance. The earth has been around for over four billion years. In the that great time span, its climate has altered dramatically from one extreme to the other '' without ANY human influence.
Since 1880 (when temps were still cooler than normal following the ''Little Ice Age'') the earth's surface climate temperature has risen by as much as a little over one degree '' a temperature that is LOWER than it was during much of the Middle Ages. A growing number of scientists are looking to such things as solar activity and the naturally occurring El Ni±o and La Ni±a warming and cooling patterns as far more dominant influences upon global temperatures than anything human beings could do.
And yet, how will young minds raise their hands and question the dogma of Climate Change if instructors never present the issue with the facts that the earth has been warmer in the past than it is now, or that there are very credible scientists who dispute the theory that humankind has a significant influence on the earth's climate?
Not so long ago, science classes taught students about the Ice Age that covered much of the earth and the eventual warming that was seen as a very GOOD thing. How is it the earth went about its business engaged in such climate extremes without a single SUV to be blamed for it? Today science classes all but ignore the fact of the Ice Age, and focus instead on the Industrial Age and then point to innovation and human development as evil things that are killing the earth.
It's rubbish of course, and hardly resembles anything remotely scientific, but sadly it is what now passes for ''science'' in our public schools. Your children and grandchildren are being placed into the meat-grinder of indoctrination where they are taught to question nothing and obey everything dictated to them by a central authority'...
D.W. ULSTERMAN is a liberty and freedom-loving author and cultural-political commentator.(And an animal lover!)His works of pro-freedom fiction are available for purchase: HERE
His works of pro-freedom fiction are available for purchase: HERE''Fellow patriots take notice, Mr. Ulsterman has penned prophecy!'' -Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong
Global warming thawing out corpses of World War One soldiers...what will they think of next?
Fri, 29 May 2015 18:14
Image: Office for Archaeological Finds, Autonomous Province of TrentoIn what is quite possibly the most bizarre result of global warming yet, a melting glacier in the Northern-Italian Alps is slowly revealing the corpses of soldiers who died in the First World War. After nearly a century, the frozen bodies appear to be perfectly mummified from the ice. With the remains also comes the story of the highest battle in history'--'The White War'.
The year is May 1915. The newly unified Italy decides to join the Allied Forces in the First World War, which by then is 10 months underway. Italy, eager to expand its borders, decides to wage war against Austria in an effort to annex the mountain areas of Trentino and Southern Tirol. The conflict results in what is now known as 'The White War': a cold, four-year-long standoff between Italian mountain troops, named 'the Alpini', and their Austrian opponents, 'the Kaisersch¼tzen'. The battle was fought at high altitude, with special weapons and infrastructure like ice-trenches and cable transports. Often the sides would use mortar fire to try and incur avalanches'--'the white death''--on each other's camps, claiming thousands of lives.
Now, thanks largely to decades of global warming, the Presena glacier running through the battleground is slowly melting away. And with that melting the remains of the White War are slowly emerging. Remarkably well-kept artifacts have been streaming down with the melting water of the glacier since the early 90s: A love letter dated from 1918, to a certain Maria that was never sent. An ode to an old friend, scribbled down in a diary. A love note picturing a sleeping woman, signed, in Czech, ''Your Abandoned Wife.''
Now, after almost a century, the bodies are following suit. Because of the cold, the remains often surface completely intact, still wrapped in their original uniforms. Last September, two Austrians emerged from the ice, aged 17 and 18, both blue-eyed and blonde'--with bullet holes in both of their skulls.
Image: Museo della Grande Guerra, Peio''The first thing I thought of were their mothers,'' Franco Nicolis from the local Archeological Heritage Office told the Telegraph. ''They feel contemporary. They come out of the ice just as they went in. In all likelihood the soldiers' mothers never discovered their sons' fate.''
The local community has been laboring for years now to reveal the remains of this largely forgotten war. In 2004, Maurizio Vicenzi, a local mountain guide and head of the Peio's war museum, discovered the bodies of three soldiers hanging upside down from an ice wall at an altitude of 12,000 feet'--victims of one the highest front lines in history. Multiple findings followed. In one rare find, a team discovered a hidden ice tunnel, that, after being melted open with huge ventilators, turned out to house an enormous wooden structure used as a transportation station for ammunition and supplies.
All bodies that have since emerged pass through the office of Daniel Gaudio, a forensic anthropologist tasked to trace the identities of the war victims. Despite the fact that in most cases he's able to extract the DNA from the corpses, he rarely succeeds. They're missing contextual information, he says, that is necessary to determine the possible whereabouts of the families of the war victims.
To date, more than 80 bodies have appeared from the depths of the glacier. And more will surely follow. On the Italian side alone more than 750,000 soldiers died in battle, according to historian Mark Thompson, author of The White War. Next summer, archeological teams will continue their search for more remains of icy melee. And the bodies are certain to keep on coming'--climate change looks certain to continue, even accelerate, the thaw.
For now, it's winter. Not far from the place where the soldiers were first discovered lies Peio, a ski resort where Italians, Austrians, Germans and Russians are once again sharing the same mountain. They do so more peacefully now.
Watch more from Motherboard: the most important models in the world
IRS thinks tax return data breach originated in Russia
Fri, 29 May 2015 18:05
The IRS believes that a major cyber breach that allowed criminals to steal the tax returns of more than 100,000 people originated in Russia, two sources briefed on the data theft tell CNN.On Tuesday, the Internal Revenue Service announced that organized crime syndicates used personal data obtained elsewhere to access tax information, which they then used to file $50 million in fraudulent tax refunds.
The IRS said the agency's Criminal Investigation Unit and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration are investigating the origins of the breach. The agency also alerted the Homeland Security Department of the breach, a DHS official confirmed. On Thursday, the FBI announced it had also opened an investigation into the incident.
An IRS spokeswoman said the agency does not discuss ongoing investigations.
The news that the IRS data breach is believed to have originated in Russia comes on the heels of the disclosure that Russian hackers had infiltrated both the White House and State Department computer systems.
The security of taxpayer data has been an IRS problem for years. In an October report, the IRS' independent watchdog called it the agency's number one problem.
"Computer security has been problematic for the IRS since 1997," according to the report.
And the new breach has lawmakers on Capitol Hill demanding answers.
Calling it the first step of many, Republican Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch announced Wednesday that he plans to haul IRS Commissioner John Koskinen before his committee next week to explain what happened and who is to blame.
"When the federal government fails to protect private and confidential taxpayer information, Congress must act," Hatch said.
Between February and May, criminals tried to access the tax accounts of 200,000 people, succeeding in about half the attempts, the IRS said. The agency said it plans to notify all 200,000 people to tell them that third parties appear to have access to their Social Security numbers and other personal information.
The roughly 100,000 taxpayers whose tax information was accessed will be offered free credit monitoring, the agency said.
Fugitive Saakashvili nominated as governor of Ukraine's Odessa region
Sun, 31 May 2015 02:48
(C) Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili
The Ukrainian cabinet of ministers has nominated the former president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, who has been placed on an international wanted list in his own country, as the governor of Ukraine's coastal Odessa region.Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was set to meet Saakashvili on Friday to approve his candidacy for the post before officially announcing the appointment, according to the presidential press-secretary Svyatoslav Tsegolko.
The fugitive Georgian leader has already been granted Ukrainian citizenship, which makes him legally eligible for the post, according to Ukrainian journalist-turned-MP Sergey Leshchenko, who also confirmed Saakashvili's appointment as Odessa governor.
Saakashvili has been a long-standing supporter of the current Ukrainian authorities ever since they ended up heading the coup that eventually toppled the previous administration in February 2014. Earlier in May he was appointed to President Poroshenko's advisory council on reform, along with the hawkish anti-Russian US Senator John McCain who chose to decline the offer.There were reports that Saakashvili was already appointed to the post, published by the Ukrinform agency, citing two unnamed sources in the administration, and confirmed by Interfax Ukraine, but no official confirmation had been released. But since Ukraine's cabinet of ministers allegedly nominated Saakashvili as per Poroshenko's own recommendation, it was a virtually done deal.
Saakashvili will become Odessa's governor with "99 percent probability," the deputy head of the Ukrainian president's administration, Valery Chaly told Ukraine National News (UNN), stressing he was speaking as an "analyst," not presidential representative.
Meanwhile Saakashvili himself said on Twitter that he "loves Odessa," without elaborating further.
The official announcement on Saakashvili's appointment as the man in charge of Ukraine's strategic Odessa region is widely expected on Saturday.
Civil.Ge | Chief Prosecutor Vows All Efforts to Have Interpol 'Red Notice' for Saakashvili
Sun, 31 May 2015 04:21
Chief Prosecutor Vows All Efforts to Have Interpol 'Red Notice' for Saakashvili
The Georgian Prosecutor's Office will spare no effort to convince Interpol to issue so called 'red notice' and put ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili in its wanted list, chief prosecutor Giorgi Badashvili said.
Saakashvili, who is wanted by the Georgian authorities, faces multiple criminal charges, which the ex-president denies as politically motivated.
Georgian prosecutor's office first announced about seeking Interpol red notice for Saakashvili in late August.
''We will do everything in order to have red notice issued for Saakashvili,'' Badashvili said in an interview with the Georgian weekly newspaper, Kviris Palitra, which was posted on its website on December 29.
Interpol uses red notices to notify its member states that an arrest warrant has been issued for an individual with a view to his or her arrest and extradition. But Interpol cannot demand individual nations make an arrest based on issued red notices. In July, 2014 Saakashvili was charged with exceeding official authorities in connection with the break up of anti-government protests on November 7, 2007 and raid on and ''seizure'' of Imedi TV. Court ordered pre-trial detention for Saakashvili in absentia on August 2 in connection to these charges.
Additional charges of exceeding official powers were filed against him in early August in which the prosecution claims Saakashvili ordered beating up of an opposition lawmaker in 2005.
Also in August prosecutor's office filed new criminal charges against Saakashvili, accusing him of misspending GEL 8.83 million of public funds between September, 2009 and February, 2013.
In November Saakashvili was formally charged with conspiring with other former senior officials to obstruct justice in a high-profile murder case of Sandro Girgvliani in 2006.
In the interview with Kviris Palitra, chief prosecutor Giorgi Badashvili denied allegations of politically motivated prosecution of former government officials.
''Any political motive is ruled out in our activities,'' he said.
European Union anger at Russian travel blacklist - BBC News
Sun, 31 May 2015 03:57
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the ban was "not based on international law" The European Union has responded angrily to Russia's entry ban against 89 European politicians, officials and military leaders.
Those banned are believed to include general secretary of the EU council Uwe Corsepius, and former British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.
Russia shared the list after several requests by diplomats, the EU said.
The EU called the ban "totally arbitrary and unjustified" and said no explanation had been provided.
Many of those on the list are outspoken critics of the Kremlin, and some have been turned away from Russia in recent months.
The EU said that it had asked repeatedly for the list of those banned, but nothing had been provided until now.
"The list with 89 names has now been shared by the Russian authorities. We don't have any other information on legal basis, criteria and process of this decision," an EU spokesman said on Saturday.
"We consider this measure as totally arbitrary and unjustified, especially in the absence of any further clarification and transparency," he added.
Nick Clegg is one reportedly of those banned from entering Russia A Russian foreign ministry official said that the ban was a result of EU sanctions against Russia.
"Why it was precisely these people who entered into the list... is simple - it was done in answer to the sanctions campaign which has been waged in relation to Russia by several states of the European Union," the official, who was not named, told Russian news agency Tass.
EU sanctions were imposed after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in March 2014, and they have been extended amid ongoing fighting between government troops and pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.
French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy is an outspoken critic of Russian leader Vladimir Putin Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told journalists on Friday that the list had been shared with EU diplomats and that three Dutch politicians were on it. He said that the Netherlands would not abide by the ban as it was "not based on international law".
British intelligence chiefs appear to have been targeted, with a leaked version of the list (in German)naming MI5 director general Andrew Parker and the former MI6 chief Sir John Sawers.
Former British foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind told the AFP news agency that he had "read the reports in the media [of his ban] but not a word from the Russians".
Britain's foreign office said: "The Russian authorities have not provided any legal basis for the list or for the names on it.
"If Russia thinks this action will cause the EU to change its position on sanctions, it is wrong."
Also on the list are the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt and the EU's former enlargement chief Stefan Fule.
'A decent club'
Sweden's foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom said that her country has asked for an explanation from Russia.
Eight Swedes are on the list, including Swedish MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt.
"I'm more proud than scared and this gives me more determination to continue... If the Kremlin takes me and my colleagues seriously it means we're doing a good job," she told AFP.
Karel Schwarzenberg: "I consider this a reward" The former Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, also said he was pleased to have made the list.
"When I saw the other names (on the list), I found out I was in a very decent club. I consider this a reward," he was quoted as saying by the CTK news agency.
Other countries with names on the list reportedly include Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria and Spain.
Russia envoy to NATO: NATO blaming Russia for aggression gives Kiev carte blanche to seek military solution
Fri, 29 May 2015 18:05
(C) Reuters / Ints Kalnins
NATO is destabilizing the Ukrainian crisis by turning blind eye to Kiev's aim for a military solution, Moscow's envoy to NATO said, warning that alliance's rhetoric of shifting all responsibility onto Russia is not consistent with real state of affairs."NATO continues to position Russia as a participant in the conflict, which is far from reality and has a serious confrontational potential because, in essence, it gives Kiev carte blanche to seek a military solution to the conflict," Russian envoy to NATO Aleksandr Grushko told Rossiya 24 TV channel.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced earlier on Wednesday that the alliance will create up to eight new command and control units on its eastern borders.
"We are establishing six command and control units in the three Baltic countries [Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia] and in Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania. And probably also [there will] be two more of those in two more countries," Stoltenberg said.
Calling the alliance's belligerent rhetoric towards Moscow an "outdated" tune, Grushko added that NATO's approach is not consistent with the real state of affairs in Europe. The envoy hinted that NATO's perceptions of a threat is artificially created with the help of the Baltic countries which beef up an anti-Russian stance with baseless accusations of security threats."It seems like some states, for various reasons, including internal political, enjoy being in the front-line, requiring special attention, special protection. And what is most important, [these countries] continue to search for more enemies and to write off their own mistakes whether in foreign policy or internal under the guise of some mythical threat from Russia," Grushko said.
The exaggeration of the "Russian threat" and the buildup of NATO forces along its borders does not correlate with the real needs of security in the region, Grushko said, calling the situation "completely inadequate to the risks that exist in this region."
According to the diplomat, NATO has been boosting its activity in the region that for decades was absolutely safe in terms of "conventional threats." The alliance is now hosting over 30 jets in the Baltics, while before 2004 the region did not host any NATO air power, Grushko stated, also noting the increase in surveillance flights.
"Russia has increased its air activity by around 50 percent, so that is one of the reasons we have increased air policing on the NATO side," Stoltenberg explained during a conference at the Center for Strategic International Studies. The NATO chief also stated that the alliance's "security measures" also include a doubling of NATO Response Forces, and a creation of a spearhead rapid reaction force as well as the increasing the size and frequency of military exercises.
Meanwhile the prospects for NATO's further expansion to the east are bleak, believes Grushko, despite Kiev's plans to join the North Atlantic Alliance as mentioned in Ukraine's new national security strategy. Stoltenberg said eventually it's up to Ukraine "and 28 allies to decide if NATO's going to enlarge and have a new member" after Ukraine announced it "will implement a reform program and then aim at applying for membership."
But there are not many "enthusiasts" in NATO who really believe there are prospects for Ukraine to become a member, according to Grushko . This scenario is "virtually impossible" because everyone understands what a dangerous and unpredictable "mine" that would lay under European security, said Grushko.
De-Dollarization Du Jour: Russia Backs BRICS Alternative To SWIFT
Fri, 29 May 2015 18:35
Back in February, Russia detailed a SWIFT alternative that would link 91 domestic banks to the Central Bank of Russia.
On the one hand, the plan represented yet another move towards global de-dollarization but on the other, was borne out of necessity when Russia began to believe it may be expelled from SWIFT as punishment for its support of rebels in Ukraine. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned of ''unlimited consequences'' if the West decided on a punitive SWIFT freeze.
Two months later, Moscow would receive a seat on the SWIFT board.
Now, Russia is taking de-dollarization a step further by suggesting that a BRICS alternative to SWIFT may be in the cards. RT has more:
The Central Bank of Russia has proposed a discussion about establishing an analogue to the SWIFT global network for transmission of financial information that processes $6 trillion worth of communiqu(C)s daily.
The CBR hopes to cut the risks of possible disruptions.
"Seriously speaking, there is no analogue to SWIFT at the moment in the world, it is unique. The only topic that may be of interest to all of us within BRICS is to consider and talk over the possibility of setting up a system that would apply to the BRICS countries, used as a backup,"said Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation Olga Skorobogatova on Friday.
This comes as Russia (which, incidentally, is the second heaviest SWIFT user) is set to convene a BRICS summit in Ulfa on July 8-9 where the $100 billion BRICS bank will officially be launched along with a $100 billion currency reserve. Much like the China-led AIIB, the BRICS bank is in many ways a response to the failure of US-dominated multilateral institutions to meet the needs of modernity and offer representation that's commensurate with the economic clout of its members.
This state of affairs isn't likely to change anytime soon, because, as we discussed earlier this month, the The White House has signaled it will be unwilling to give up US veto power even if it means setting up and end-around that would allow the Fund to be reformed without the approval of congress. The Washington Post summarized the situation nicely after the 6th BRICS Summit last summer:
Although the BRICS comprise over one-fifth of the global economy, together they wield about 11 percent of the votes at the IMF. But reform to the governance of the Bretton-Woods institutions has encountered a number of roadblocks. In 2008 and again in 2010, quota reform at the IMF was intended to double total financial commitments from all member countries, while at the same time giving BRICS countries larger voting shares. Because this required additional contributions by member governments of richer countries, several balked for different reasons.
Russia is also pressing ahead with plans to establish a Eurasian currency union, something we first discussed a few months back. Here's what we said in March:
One person who is paying attention to the failure of the US to grasp that the unipolar world of the 1980s is long gone, is Russia's Vladimir Putin, who earlier today proposed creating a "Eurasian" currency union which would have Belarus and Kazakhstan as its first members, which already are Russia's partners in a political and economic union made up of former Soviet republics.
Sputnik News has the latest:
Russia is ready to consider the creation of a currency union with other members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday.
"In this [EEU] format it would be possible to consider the possibility and conditions of eventually creating a monetary union,'' Medvedev said.
The prime minister is currently in Kazakhstan for a session of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council.
The EEU, which officially came into force January 1, 2015, comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. The bloc seeks to achieve greater economic integration, including the free flow of goods, services, capital and labor across its member states.
With that, we have triple-dose of de-dollarization, as Russia moves to undercut a critical financial communications link by creating an alternative system backed by the world's rising EM powerhouses who are set to officially launch their own development bank when they convene in July. At the same time, Moscow will consider cementing its economic ties with regional allies via the establishment of a currency bloc.
Paging King dollar: your grip on the throne grows weak.
Russia to start construction of Turkish Stream in June
Fri, 29 May 2015 18:04
(C) Sputnik/ Taras Litvinenko
Russian Gazprom has signaled that it will move forward with the construction of the Turkish Stream, regardless of potential political obstacles in Europe, planning to cease using its route through Ukraine in 2019, Stratfor reported.According to US private intelligence company Stratfor, Russia's Gazprom has clearly signaled that it will push ahead the construction of the Turkish Stream, calling upon Italian energy firm Saipem and Germany's Europipe to start working on the project.
"Russia said it plans to start constructing the underwater portion of the pipeline in June. Gazprom has already told Europe that it plans to cease using its current export route through Ukraine in 2019 and shift those natural gas supplies to the Turkish Stream pipeline," Stratfor analysts emphasized.
Indeed, Moscow has resumed a contract with Europipe for 150,000 metric tons of pipe, and notified a subsidiary of Saipem that it could begin constructing the 63 billion-cubic-meter pipeline in the Black Sea.
While European experts express their doubts regarding Russia's ability to boost the project if Europe does not build its part of pipeline infrastructure to receive natural gas from the Turkish border, Moscow has already invested enough to begin construction on the first of Turkish Stream's four parallel pipelines.
Although building the entire Turkish Stream pipeline project will be a complicated process and Moscow may face a number of political and financial difficulties while implementing the project, "Russia's approach reveals a nuanced, low-risk plan for the pipeline," the analysts pointed out.
"Turkey is one of Russia's most important natural gas markets in the long term, and its natural gas demand has more than doubled over the past 10 years. By the mid 2020s, Turkey's natural gas demand could amount to the entire volume carried by the first two legs of Turkish Stream, and it will almost certainly need the amount of natural gas carried by the first leg even sooner," Stratfor stressed.
According to the analysts, by implementing the Turkish Stream the Kremlin will kill two birds with one stone. If European countries build the infrastructure, Russia will immediately jump at the opportunity to bolster its natural gas supplies to Europe. If not, the new pipeline will allow Moscow to boost its exports to the swiftly growing Turkish market.
Macedonia ready to join Turkish stream project once Moscow reaches agreement with EU
Sun, 31 May 2015 04:17
Published time: May 28, 2015 04:59Edited time: May 28, 2015 07:20Reuters / Bogdan Cristel
Macedonia is ready to take part in the construction of the Turkish stream natural gas pipeline once Russia and Brussels reach an agreement on the strategic project, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has announced.
''Our position is that when Brussels and Moscow reach an agreement on this project, we will take part in it,'' Gruevski told Press24 portal. ''As a country aiming to join the European community, these are exactly the guidelines we follow when making strategic decisions.''
Following the abandonment of the South Stream gas pipeline project in December 2014, Moscow has switched its resources towards constructing the Turkish Stream as an alternative.
At present, Athens and Moscow are working out the details to construct a segment of the pipeline starting on the Greek-Turkish border that will enable supplies to the EU. The Greek segment of the gas system is projected to run to the Macedonian border.
The Gruevski-led government, which has seen massive uprisings against it in recent weeks, in the past opposed Western sanctions against Russia and supported the Turkish Stream construction.
READ MORE: US urges Greece to reject Turkish Stream, focus on Western-backed project
''If you look at the geography of the region, Macedonia is the best place for constructing the extension of the newest energy infrastructure project in the region, the so-called Turkish Stream,'' Russia's ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov told Bloomberg last week.
Last Wednesday, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that ''the Macedonian events are blatantly controlled from the outside'' to pressure Skopje, among other things, to opt out of the Turkish Stream project.
Meanwhile Gruevski said that Macedonia will not face any serious problems re: gas supply over the next 10 years, as it consumes less than projected. However he says the largest problem for the country now is the high price of gas.
Putin: BRICS Summit in July will be setting for launch of New Development Bank and currency pool
Fri, 29 May 2015 18:08
(C) RIA Novosti / Alexei Druzhinin
Russia expects to launch the $100-billion BRICS New Development Bank along with a currency reserve pool worth another $100 billion at the July summit in Ufa, said Russian President Vladimir Putin."We expect to reach agreement in Ufa on the launch of practical operations of the BRICS Bank and a pool of currency reserves," Putin said on Thursday at a ceremony to receive the credentials of ambassadors of foreign states, TASS reports.
Putin recalled that the BRICS was created in 2006 under Russia's initiative, and that the group "has already become an influential factor in world policy and economy."
"Russia is interested in further intensifying cooperation between the BRICS countries and developing new interaction mechanisms, including in the financial and economic sphere," he said.
An additional impulse would be given in the next days "to the development of inter-parliamentary relations, humanitarian and information cooperation, the intensification of contacts between trade unions and non-governmental organizations," he added.
The agreement on the establishment of the New Development bank was signed by the BRICS countries in July 2014. The bank seen as rival to the existing US-led institutions, the IMF and World Bank, will finance infrastructure projects and ensure the sustainable development of the group and other developing countries.
President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce Sergey Katyrin took over the chairmanship of a business council of BRICS, an economic association made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, on April 1.
The reserve currencies pool worth $100 billion is intended to protect national currencies from volatility in global markets and will allow the five BRICS member states to depend less on fluctuations in the world economy, bypass market volatility and other negative factors.
The upcoming BRICS Summit is to be held in the Russian city of Ufa on 8-9 July. The countries are expected to discuss the IMF reform that should give a louder voice to developing countries in decision-making, and the possibility of creating an independent BRICS rating agency. Russia was chosen to assume the BRICS rotating leadership in April 2015.
Russian opposition figure falls gravely ill with mysterious sickness
Sat, 30 May 2015 22:18
What's This?
File photo of Vladimir Kara-Murza (L), then senior policy adviser at the Institute of Modern Russia, with former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov (R) during a news conference on 'Corruption and Abuse in Sochi Olympics' January 30, 2014 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.Image: Alex Wong
By Megan Specia2015-05-29 19:00:26 UTC
A Russian opposition figure and associate of assassinated politician Boris Nemtsov, is in intensive care in a Moscow hospital after suddenly falling ill, according to his family.
The root of his illness remains a mystery, prompting fears of foul play.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, a 33-year-old outspoken critic of the Putin administration, collapsed at his home in Moscow on Tuesday before being transported to a local hospital where his condition continued to deteriorate, according to a statement from his wife.
The First City Hospital said he remained in grave condition and he is suffering from kidney failure. The Interfax news agency, citing the hospital's chief doctor, said he appeared to be suffering from pancreatitis and double pneumonia.
His father, a prominent journalist also named Vladimir, told Interfax that doctors haven't ruled out foul play, but there was no evidence that his son had been deliberately poisoned.
Kara-Murza was a close associate of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated in February, and works with a civic organization founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former oil tycoon and Kremlin opponent. He was also an outspoken supporter of the slain politician in his months since his death.
Speaking to Channel 4 following Nemtsov's death, Kara-Murza said, "There is no doubt that the principle culprits are the people in the current political leadership in Russia in the Kremlin regime."
"In Putin's Russia, in order for an opposition leader to be mentioned in a positive light on television he has to be killed first, and this is what has happened," said Kara-Murza, speaking of his colleague days after his death.
When asked if he, as a fellow opposition leader, feared retaliation from the Kremlin, Kara-Murza made his stance very clear how he felt in light of his colleague's death.
"No we are not afraid," said Kara-Murza. "I think we owe it to his memory not to be afraid... We do not have a right to leave the country to run away." Earlier this week, Kara-Murza's wife demanded he be taken to Israel or Europe for treatment and toxicology tests and called his illness "symptoms of poisoning."
"His condition has not improved since; he has not regained consciousness," his wife, Yevgenia, said in an e-mail to Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.
However, Kara-Murza's father and the head doctor of the hospital where he is being treated said Friday he won't be sent abroad, according to Russian news agencies. Kara-Murza, pictured at right in the photo below, regularly tweeted anti-Kremlin views.
After the poisoning of defector Alexander Litvinenko and the mysterious deaths of other Russian opposition figures, some worry that Kara-Murza could have been poisoned.
Some information in this report is provided by the Associated Press.
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.
Topics: nemtsov, Politics, russia, World, Vladimir Kara-Murza
South Front Crisis News 29 May 2015: Poroshenko business attacked, massive bombing of Yemen continues -- Puppet Masters --
Sun, 31 May 2015 03:05
An unknown group attacked the company "Roshen" building in Kiev with a grenade launcher last night. There are no casualties, building is damaged. The owner of the company is the President Petro Poroshenko. We remember, so-called "democratic" leader of Ukraine didn't and doesn't want to sell his business despite the law prohibiting Ukrainian president has a business. In this case, Poroshenko isn't the president, but one of the most powerful oligarch in Ukraine.When Petro is trying to find authors of attack on his business, Ukrainian Premier Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is continually smashing Minsk Agreements. On May 28, the official stated that Kiev government is ready to talk with People's Republics only if their representatives will be jailed. This statement is one more observable evidence of Kiev's unwil to solve the conflict in peaceful approach.US-backed Saudi's airforces killed at least 80 people, most of them civilians, near Yemen's border with Saudi Arabia and in the capital Sana'a on Wednesday, residents said, the deadliest day of bombing in over two months of war in Yemen. The deadly airstrikes have escalated hard border clashes between the Shi'ite Muslim rebels and the coalition of Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab states.
Twin car bomb attacks targated the Babylon Hotel and Ishtar hotels in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad on Thursday. Reports said 15 people were killed and 27 others were wounded in the explosions. No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks yet, but Iraqi officials often blame such attacks on ISIS terrorists, who seized large swaths of the country during a blitz last year. Iraqi army, along with volunteer forces, is continuing to fightt the Islamic State across the country, especially in the provinces of Anbar and Salahuddin.
IRS thinks tax return data breach originated in Russia
Fri, 29 May 2015 18:05
The IRS believes that a major cyber breach that allowed criminals to steal the tax returns of more than 100,000 people originated in Russia, two sources briefed on the data theft tell CNN.On Tuesday, the Internal Revenue Service announced that organized crime syndicates used personal data obtained elsewhere to access tax information, which they then used to file $50 million in fraudulent tax refunds.
The IRS said the agency's Criminal Investigation Unit and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration are investigating the origins of the breach. The agency also alerted the Homeland Security Department of the breach, a DHS official confirmed. On Thursday, the FBI announced it had also opened an investigation into the incident.
An IRS spokeswoman said the agency does not discuss ongoing investigations.
The news that the IRS data breach is believed to have originated in Russia comes on the heels of the disclosure that Russian hackers had infiltrated both the White House and State Department computer systems.
The security of taxpayer data has been an IRS problem for years. In an October report, the IRS' independent watchdog called it the agency's number one problem.
"Computer security has been problematic for the IRS since 1997," according to the report.
And the new breach has lawmakers on Capitol Hill demanding answers.
Calling it the first step of many, Republican Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch announced Wednesday that he plans to haul IRS Commissioner John Koskinen before his committee next week to explain what happened and who is to blame.
"When the federal government fails to protect private and confidential taxpayer information, Congress must act," Hatch said.
Between February and May, criminals tried to access the tax accounts of 200,000 people, succeeding in about half the attempts, the IRS said. The agency said it plans to notify all 200,000 people to tell them that third parties appear to have access to their Social Security numbers and other personal information.
The roughly 100,000 taxpayers whose tax information was accessed will be offered free credit monitoring, the agency said.
PR-Volatile Cedar '-- Global Cyber Espionage Campaign Discovered
Sun, 31 May 2015 04:13
Security firm Check Point has uncovered what seems to be a successful, and long-running, cyber-surveillance campaign called ''Volatile Cedar.'' Check Point found that targets of the attack included, but were not limited to, defense contractors, media companies, telecommunications, and educational institutions.
The attack is said to have originated in Lebanon and possibly has political ties in the region. According to an article in Techworld, previous cyber-campaigns originating from Lebanon have been either extremely unsophisticated or targeted at other countries in the region. However, Volatile Cedar is different.
According to the report, this campaign has been in operation since 2012 and has successfully penetrated a large number of targets across the globe. During this time it has allowed the attackers to steal data and monitor a large volume of victim's actions.
The actors involved in this campaign do not appear to be using flashy mechanisms like zero day attacks or complex malware but, instead, enter networks via vulnerable webservers. Once compromised, webservers are infected with a trojan called ''Explosive'' which allows them to carry out reconnaissance.
This custom-built piece of malware offers remote access, data exfiltration, key logging, as well as functionality to allow for lateral movements within the compromised network.
Another very interesting aspect of the Volatile Cedar campaign is how far the actors are willing to go to remain undetected, monitoring system resource consumption and antivirus detection results with the ''Explosive'' tool. It will even block external communications and obfuscate traffic to mask its activity.
How Volatile Cedar Impacts Your Organization Attackers can take control of infected systems to steal data, log keystrokes, and even begin to move around in your networkThe loss of data can lead to regulatory penalties, loss of business, litigation, etc.Hosting malicious content could inadvertently associate your organization with criminal activityHow AlienVault Unified Security Management (USM) Can HelpAlienVault USM provides asset discovery, vulnerability assessment, threat detection (IDS), behavioral monitoring, SIEM, and threat intelligence from AlienVault Labs'--all in a single console.The AlienVault Labs team has already added several IDS signatures and a correlation rule to detect the C&C protocol generated by all the malware families used by the attackers behind Volatile Cedar:
System Compromise, Targeted Malware, Volatile CedarWith AlienVault USM, you can scan your network to identify assets with the Volatile Cedar vulnerability, making it easy for you to identify systems that need to be patched and prioritize remediation.
Not only can AlienVault USM identify vulnerable systems, it can also help you detect attempted exploits of the vulnerability.
AlienVault USM also checks the IP information against the Open Threat Exchange (OTX), the largest crowd-sourced threat intelligence exchange. In the example below, you can see details from OTX on the reputation of an IP, including any malicious activities associated with it.Learn more about AlienVault USM:
North Korea's thousands of hackers could DESTROY cities | World | News | Daily Express
Sat, 30 May 2015 17:57
North Korea's Bureau 121 could pose a threat to cities, according to an expertNorth Korea has cyber war capacity
Prof Kim Heung-Kwang
Professor Kim Heung-Kwang, who defected from the regime, said that the country's military hacking unit could pose a "feasible threat to a city".
He said: "The reason North Korea has been harassing other countries is to demonstrate that North Korea has cyber war capacity."
"Their cyber-attacks could have similar impacts as military attacks, killing people and destroying cities."
The country's notorious hacking agency '' also known as Bureau 121 '' has been linked to a series of cyber-attacks.
Professor Kim taught computer science at Hamheung Computer Technology University, before escaping the country in 2004.
While he did not teach hacking techniques, his former students have gone on to North Korea's notorious bureau.
The Interview, a controversial film satirising its leader Kim Jong-un, was pulled from cinemas last year after an attack on Sony Pictures.
North Korea reportedly threatened to blow up the White House '' with its state news agency KCNA describing the US as a "cesspool of terrorism".
Heung-Kwang also warned that the regime has developed an attack based on Stuxnet '' a virus which infected an Iranian nuclear power plant in 2010.
He said: "[A Stuxnet-style attack] designed to destroy a city has been prepared by North Korea and is a feasible threat."
The professor added that up to 20 per cent of the regime's military budget is being spent on online operations.
Approximately 6,000 people work for the cyber-attack agency, Heung-Kwang added.
Related articles
Libor trial: 'Ringmaster' was 'greedy', court hears - BBC News
Fri, 29 May 2015 15:37
The first criminal trial linked to the manipulation of a key interest rate, known as Libor, has begun in London.
Former City trader Tom Hayes, 35, of Fleet in Hampshire, has been accused of acting in a "thoroughly dishonest and manipulative manner" in his alleged attempts to rig the Libor rates, the court heard.
The former UBS and Citigroup trader denies eight counts of conspiracy to defraud over the period 2006-2010.
Mr Hayes was charged in June 2013.
Libor - the London Interbank Offered Rate - is an interest rate used by banks around the world to set the price of financial products worth billions of pounds.
Mukul Chawla QC, acting for the prosecution, said: "This case is about the dishonest rigging of bank rates for profit.
"The motive was a simple one: it was greed," said Mr Chawla, who described Mr Hayes as "the ringmaster at the very centre, telling others around him what to do and in a number of cases rewarding them for their dishonest assistance".
'You are greedy'Jurors at Southwark Crown Court heard that Mr Hayes told investigators: "The point is, you are greedy, you want every little bit of money you can possibly get... that's how you are judged, that's your performance metric."
It was this greed that led to "dishonesty on an enormous scale", said Mr Chawla.
The prosecution accused Mr Hayes of enlisting "the help of a large number of people across a large number of different financial organisations to help him", Mr Chawla added.
"He tried to rig, and in many cases succeeded in rigging, the rates at other banks," Mr Chawla said.
He achieved this by approaching people at other banks directly or through brokers acting as middlemen, he said.
Mr Chawla said Mr Hayes had "admitted his guilt, setting out precisely what he had done with whom" and offering to give evidence about a "large number of other people".
The court was played a clip where Mr Hayes said he was part of a system in which influencing Libor was "commonplace", although he admitted he was a "serial offender".
'Dishonest activity'The court also heard that Mr Hayes had been diagnosed with mild Asperger's syndrome.
It was also told there had "undoubtedly been some manipulation of Libor at UBS before Mr Hayes's own dishonest activity".
After Mr Hayes felt that "UBS were not paying him enough", he joined Citi in 2009. He was sacked after his methods were formally reported to senior managers and he returned to the UK.
Mr Hayes is accused of lying about the rates that his bank was borrowing money at, thus affecting the calculation of the Libor rate.
The trial is set to last between 10 and 12 weeks.
The way Libor is calculated has now been changed in the wake of the rate-rigging scandal.
Father of NY banker who jumped to his death fears son turned to drugs to cope with work stress | Daily Mail Online
Sun, 31 May 2015 04:28
Thomas J Hughes jumped 200ft from 24th story of his Manhattan building He believes Thomas found release from the pressure at work in illegal drugs which turned him suicidalPolice reportedly found bag of cocaine and four with residue at apartment The Moelis & Company employee and Northwestern grad hit a guard rail on streetColleagues remembered the Westchester native as 'positive force'Hughes recently took a trip to the Bahamas but had to work during holiday By Daniel Bates For
Published: 08:29 EST, 29 May 2015 | Updated: 14:56 EST, 29 May 2015
The father of the investment banker who plunged to his death from his luxury Manhattan apartment where police found evidence of a wild party said today that he fears his son turned to drink and drugs to cope with the stress of work.
John Hughes said that son Thomas had been under a 'lot of pressure' and that he even had to work on a recent holiday in the Bahamas.
Police reportedly found one ziplock bag filled with cocaine and residue on four bags and a rolled up dollar bill, suggesting Wolf of Wall Street-style drug use before the death.
Thomas' body was found on Thursday morning on the sidewalk outside his apartment block after apparently jumping 200ft from his home on the 24th floor.
Thomas J Hughes, 29, originally from Westchester County, New York, was mourned by colleagues and family on Friday after jumping to his death from a luxury apartment building in downtown Manhattan
The Moelis & Company employee was remembered as 'talented' and a 'positive force' by colleagues. Above, Hughes (second from right) poses with his family at the Manhattan restaurant Per Se
He is the 12th person this year who worked in finance have taken their own life amid renewed focus on the demands that Wall St places on young bankers.
John, 61, described his son, 29-year-old son, as someone who 'liked to work hard and liked to party' and feared that he found release in illegal drugs which turned him suicidal.
The lawyer from Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County, told Daily Mail Online: 'Naturally this is a complete surprise to us. We are devastated.
'Thomas was a happy, jovial, successful, good looking, very sociable individual.
'The only explanation is that I know he's been working very hard and has been under a lot of pressure.
'His work did not leave much time for enjoyment but that's the nature of the assignment that he chose.
'I also know that sometimes when one is in that environment you can turn to alcohol or other types of drugs...
' a time when he was under stress he probably resorted to illegal drugs, causing this incredibly poor judgement, is probably the best I can say.
'He must have had some problems that I was not privy to.'
In addition to drugs, police found two Chase credit cards and a debit card in Thomas's apartment in New York's Financial District, according to sources cited by the New York Post.
Tributes to Hughes followed shock on Thursday morning as details about the scene in lower Manhattan emerged
The body was thought to have bounced off of or narrowly missed a passing Honda CRV on the lower Manhattan street
Hughes, who was educated at Northwestern, jumped to his death after returning from a vacation in the Bahamas
The youngest of three brothers, Thomas was educated at the $52,000 a year Canterbury School in Milford, Connecticut.
He studied economics at Northwestern University where he scored well in his exams and was on the Varsity squash team before heading to Wall St and getting jobs with Swiss company UBS and then Citibank..
Early last year Thomas joined Park Avenue investment bank Moelis & Company where he was promoted to an associate and told his father it was a 'great firm, a great place to work'.
At the time of his death he was living at the Ocean Luxury Residences, which has views of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbour and where one-bedroom properties have previously sold for more than $1million.
John said that Thomas 'had everything that you could seemingly want' but was apparently troubled.
John said that the long hours meant that his son's job was 'all encompassing' but he told him that he was 'enjoying his work'.
He told Daily Mail Online that the high pressure was the 'nature of the industry' that his son was in and that he 'didn't seek to blame anybody'.
John said: 'It's not what might have been but what won't be.
'He probably would have had a wonderful, long life but that's not going to happen.
'I wish I would have crystal clear answers.
'If you met him you would say this is the opposite person who would seem like the kind of person who was considering taking this type of action'.
After Thomas' death his brother Joseph posted a touching tribute on his Facebook page showing the two together when they were younger.
Also paying tribute was a spokeswoman for Moelis & Company.
She said: 'We are saddened by the news of Tom's death and send our sincere condolences to his family and friends at this very sad time.
'Tom was a talented and valued team member and a positive force in our firm. He will be greatly missed.'
Reports about Thomas' death said that he tried to kill himself earlier in the day by slitting his wrists.
He was thought to have jumped from the 24th story of the building, which has views of the Statue of Liberty
Body parts were found underneath a passing car, and an employee at a nearby parking garage was sent home after seeing the incident and have blood splattered on his shirt. Above, the building's lobby
After he fell to the sidewalk body parts were scattered in the street and a passing Honda CRV was either hit or narrowly missed.
An employee at a nearby parking garage was sent home after seeing his body explode on impact and having blood splattered on his shirt.
Relatives were reportedly unable to officially identify the body due to the severity of the injuries. Police will now use fingerprints.
Witness Mario Mroczkowski said that Thomas was decapitated after hitting a guard rail for a road that leads into Manhattan according to the New York Daily News.
'I got close, but when I looked, all I saw were body parts ... guts everywhere,' he said.
Tourists on an open-air bus took out their cell phones to take pictures of the incident, according to nearby workers.
Thomas' life was documented on his Facebook page which showed he checked in the trendy Surf Lodge in Montauk on Long Island last summer and also visited Miami beach.
Among his likes were men's clothing retailer Brooks Brothers, Harper's Magazine and Bret Easton Ellis, who wrote 'American Psycho', the gory satire of 80s Wall St bankers.
Thomas also posted about having dinner at the three Michelin Star restaurant Per Se with his family.
The New York City Police Department said that the case is still under investigation but so far there is no sign of criminality.
The previous death of a financial worker was on March 12 when 28-year-old Kenneth Bellando was found on the sidewalk outside his six-story Manhattan apartment building.
The US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours at 800-273-TALK (8255)
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Shut Up Slave!
Fury after primary pupils are asked to complete radicalisation-seeking surveys | Education | The Guardian
Sun, 31 May 2015 04:38
Year 6 pupils having an outdoor science lesson. Children of this age have been asked to complete surveys designed to find clues to possible radicalisation. Photograph: Graham Turner/for the Guardian
Parents of children as young as nine have reacted angrily after schools in an east London borough asked pupils to complete surveys designed to provide clues to possible radicalisation. Waltham Forest council has been piloting the scheme in five primary schools with large Muslim intakes. The questionnaire, circulated among year 6 pupils, asks how much they trust the police and people from another race or religion.
They are also asked whether they agree that it is acceptable to marry someone from outside their race or religion and whether women are just as good as men at work. Another question asks if the pupils believe their religion is the only correct one. About 22% of the population in Waltham Forest, one of the most deprived local authorities in England, are Muslim.
The programme has been funded with a '‚¬500,000 (£360,000) grant from an EU fund '' the Radicalisation Leading to Terrorism Programme '' designed to ''identify the initial seeds of radicalisation with children of primary school age''.
But some parents have complained they were not consulted about the surveys. One parent of an 11-year-old boy at Buxton primary school in Leytonstone, who was asked to complete the questionnaire, said: ''This is why we need to get involved with this, otherwise 'monitoring' like this goes unchecked and without vetting. No letter was sent home explaining this and I found out just talking to my son.''
Other parents expressed outrage on Twitter. ''This is shockingly Orwellian,'' one said. ''Our kids don't stand a chance. Guessing there's going to be a big jump in home schooling.''
A council spokeswoman said concerns had been raised about the survey, especially as pupils had been asked to put their name and other identifying details on the forms. Because the surveys were supposed to have been anonymous, all of those carried out so far may be destroyed.
The programme, known as Brit '' Building Resilience Through Integration & Trust '' is targeted at nine- to 11-year-olds and involves lesson plans and workbooks about identity and belonging. The charity Family Action is delivering the programme to schools.
Among other questions in the survey, children are asked if they agree or disagree with a series of statements including ''God has a purpose for me'' and ''If a student was making fun of my race or religion I would try to make them stop even if it meant hurting them.'' They are also asked to tick three boxes with which they identify, choosing from British, Muslim, student, artist, athlete, Christian and young.
A joint statement issued by the school's executive headteacher Kath Wheeler and chair of governors Tom Williams apologised for any distress caused and said that an internal investigation had been launched. ''When we agreed to run the Brit project on behalf of Waltham Forest Council, we were not made aware that this questionnaire would be included. If we had, current procedures would have identified concerns from the outset as this involved potentially identifiable and sensitive information.''
The surveys had been sent to a junior member of staff at the school and had not been seen by the senior leadership, according to the statement. ''The local authority has confirmed their intention was to anonymise and then destroy the questionnaires,'' it said. ''Despite this we will not be taking part in this method of evaluation now or in the future.''
The Islamic Human Rights Commission has urged parents to boycott the questionnaire. Its chairman, Massoud Shadjareh, said it had been designed to target and profile Muslim children. ''At this young age, we should be thinking about nurturing and developing our children, not compartmentalising them. I think the questionnaire has clearly been devised by people who haven't got a clue about radicalisation.
''Some of the questions are just plain ridiculous. It's also clearly racist and Islamophobic '' there would be uproar if they mentioned the word 'Jew' or 'black' in the identity question.''
Local councillors Mark Rusling and Liaquat Ali said: ''The Brit project is a council programme that works with primary school pupils and their families to develop community cohesion. We're glad this has sparked a debate, as our aim is to encourage people to talk about the importance of cohesion at all ages.''
Bill Bolloten, an independent education consultant, expressed concern. ''Some Muslim parents have been saying on Twitter that they will tell their children not to answer any questions at all. It's important that schools do explore pupils' multiple identities, but this project is tainted by the desire to spot the signs of extremism in primary school children.''
DGs - Migration and Home Affairs - What we do - ...Crisis & Terrorism - Radicalisation
Sun, 31 May 2015 04:39
The EU firmly believes in eradicating terrorism at its source. Therefore, preventing terrorist attacks by addressing and stopping terrorist radicalisation and recruitment is a priority for the EU, as outlined in the EU Internal Security Strategy in Action. Radicalisation in this sense is understood as a complex phenomenon of people embracing radical ideology that could lead to the commitment of terrorist acts.
Rejecting terrorist ideologyTerrorist radicalisation and recruitment are not confined to one faith or political ideology. This is best demonstrated by the fact that Europe has experienced different types of terrorism in its history. It is important to underline that the vast majority of Europeans, irrespective of belief or political conviction, reject terrorist ideology. Even among the small number of people that do not reject such ideology, only a few turn to terrorism. Preventing terrorist radicalisation and recruitment will only work if we remain fully dedicated to respecting fundamental rights, promoting integration and cultural dialogue and fighting discrimination.
Working with local communitiesRadicalisation that can lead to acts of terrorism is best contained at a level closest to the most vulnerable individuals. It requires close cooperation with local authorities and civil society. Therefore, the core of the action on radicalisation and recruitment is, and should remain, at national level. However, the EU can provide an important framework to help coordinate national policies, share information and determine good practices.
EU radicalisation awareness networkUnder the EU Internal Security Strategy in Action, the Commission promotes actions empowering communities and key groups that are engaged in the prevention of terrorist radicalisation and recruitment. To this end, it has established an EU-wide Radicalisation Awareness Network, which connects key groups of people involved in countering violent radicalisation across the EU. Thus, researchers, social workers, religious leaders, youth leaders, policemen and others working on the ground in vulnerable communities are able to exchange ideas and best practices, in particular on how to challenge terrorist narratives and recruitment. They are able to pool experiences and knowledge to enhance awareness on radicalisation and to encourage credible opinion leaders to voice positive messages that offer alternatives to terrorist narratives.
Joint EU standardsSince 2005, work in this field has been guided by the EU Strategy for Combating Radicalisation and Recruitment. While recognising EU States' authority as security-providers, the strategy contains joint standards and measures that aim at preventing terrorist radicalisation and recruitment, grouped under three key headings:
disrupt the activities of individuals and networks that draw people into terrorismensure that voices of mainstream opinion prevail over those of extremismpromote security, justice, democracy and opportunities for all more vigorously.Research and studiesThe Commission has been supporting research and studies in order to better understand the process of radicalisation, key influencing factors, ideologies and recruitment mechanisms. It has also established a European Network of Experts on Radicalisation (ENER) to provide a platform for discussing the phenomenon of radicalisation and to assist EU and national level policy-makers in gathering expertise and identifying and exchanging good practices in the field of prevention.
The Commission has also supported research in methods used for countering the dissemination of terrorist propaganda, especially on the Internet. This has been supplemented by the promotion of a public-private partnership and dialogue between law enforcement authorities and Internet service providers, in order to reduce terrorism-related and other illegal content on the Internet. In addition, the Commission has been active in enhancing law enforcement authorities' technical resources and know-how regarding the tools and methodologies for detecting illegal content online.
Under its Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme '' ISEC, the Commission has provided support to governmental and non-governmental actors in developing EU-wide cooperation and actions to address the challenge of and to strengthen individual and community resilience against radicalisation.
A quarter of Australians are OK having a chip implanted in them to pay for stuff
Sun, 31 May 2015 03:59
A mind-boggling 25% of Australians say they are at least ''slightly interested'' at the prospect of having a chip implanted in their skin that could be used for payments, new research has found.
The research by credit card company Visa and the University of Technology Sydney found Australians are open to the prospect of paying for items using wearable tech including smart watches, rings, glasses and even a connected car.
''Australians are among the world's earliest adopters of new technology,'' Head of Emerging Products and Innovation for Visa in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, George Lawson said.
Visa is currently looking at how its payments tech can be integrated with wearable devices and is working with UTS to figure out how it might be adopted by the next generation of shoppers.
''New technology like tokenisation makes it possible to turn any device into a secure vehicle for commerce. We're already seeing smartphone payments take off in Australia. Partnering with UTS gives us the opportunity to explore what our next device might be,'' Lawson said.
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War on Ammo
AS PREDICTED-House bill would require gun owners to have liability insurance | TheHill
Sun, 31 May 2015 03:54
House Democrat Rep. Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.) has introduced a bill that would require gun owners to carry liability insurance.
The Firearm Risk Protection Act, unveiled Friday, would require gun buyers to have liability insurance coverage before being allowed to purchase a weapon, and would impose a fine of $10,000 if an owner is found not to have it. Service members and law enforcement officers, however, would be exempt from the requirement.
''We require insurance to own a car, but no such requirement exists for guns," Maloney said in a statement. "The results are clear: car fatalities have declined by 25 percent in the last decade, but gun fatalities continue to rise.''Maloney said auto insurance carriers incentivize drivers to take precautions to reduce accidents, but no such incentives exist for firearm owners.
''An insurance requirement would allow the free market to encourage cautious behavior and help save lives,'' she said. ''Adequate liability coverage would also ensure that the victims of gun violence are fairly compensated when crimes or accidents occur."
This is the second time Maloney, who is one of the biggest gun control advocates in Congress, has introduced the legislation. A few weeks ago she reintroduced legislation that would require sellers to obtain a background check for all guns sold at gun shows.
The Gun Show Loophole Closing Act, long championed by former Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), would subject anyone selling or transferring a gun to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and require that transfers be reported to the attorney general.
FIFA: Palestinians drop vote to get Israel suspended from world football
Fri, 29 May 2015 18:20
A handshake between the representatives of Israeli and Palestinian football associations at the FIFA congress marks the end of the motion to get Israel banned from world football.
Palestinian Football Association president Jibril Rajoub said he had been persuaded to back down on the vote, saying ''I'm here to play football not politics,'' but added that he would not give up the resistance.
The suspension was abandoned at the last minute after a compromise was reached to establish a committee which would monitor the contentious issues.
Palestinians have complained for years that Israel has discriminated against their players and officials by limiting their movements. The committee would monitor this as well as find a solution to five Israeli clubs located in the Occupied Palestinian Territory of the West Bank.
Nike becomes suspected player in alleged $150 million FIFA bribery scandal
Fri, 29 May 2015 16:44
Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, after seven soccer officials were arrested pending extradition to the U.S. in a separate probe of "rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted"corruption. (AP)
The international investigation into bribery, fraud and corruption at FIFA involved some surprising American names: The Miami chairman of a popular nationwide soccer league, and a major U.S. sportswear firm some believe could be Nike.
For more than two decades, the Justice Department said Wednesday, five "unscrupulous" U.S. and South American sports and banking executives helped funnel more than $150 million in bribes to officials atop FIFA, the multibillion-dollar goliath governing the world's most popular sport.
The indictment also alleges bribes were paid and pocketed in connection with the sponsorship of the Brazilian national soccer team by "a major U.S. sportswear company." Although investigators will not name the company, the indictment says the sportswear firm signed a 10-year, $160 million sponsorship deal with the Brazilian team in 1996, closely matching Nike's clothes, shoes and equipment deal with the team that year.
The indictment alleges a sportswear-company official agreed three days later to allow Traffic Brazil, a sports marketing company, to charge additional "marketing fees." Traffic then invoiced the company for tens of millions of dollars more in payments over the next three years that investigators say were bribes.
[U.S.: Indictments are just the start of FIFA scrutiny]
Nike's current contract, which expires in 2018, includes $34 million a year in payments to the team, the fourth-largest uniform deal in international soccer, and the Oregon-based mega-firm's Swoosh logo sits on every Brazilian player's outfit.
The Brazilian sponsorship deal helped transform Nike from a brand mostly known for running and basketball shoes into a global sports giant. Nike's soccer revenue surpassed $2.2 billion in fiscal year 2014, up from $40 million in 1994.
A Nike representative said in a statement that the firm is "concerned by the very serious allegations ... and strongly opposes any form of manipulation or bribery," adding that the company is cooperating with the authorities.
Nike investors seemed to shrug off the issue, sending the $88 billion giant's stock falling less than 1 percent. Even if Nike was implicated, analysts expected it would have minimal impact on the Big Swoosh.
"What fans or consumers are going to be much more concerned about is doping of athletes, fixing of matches, that kind of thing," said Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst for NPD Group. ''I think they couldn't care less who paid whom for what marketing deal.''
[The human toll of FIFA's corruption]
The broader corruption charges allege the five U.S. and South American businessmen pocketed kickbacks in exchange for media rights and marketing deals tied to some of soccer's most profitable games.
Investigators said they acted secretly, hatching intricate money laundering schemes, smuggling cash and wiring tens of millions of dollars through offshore accounts from the Cayman Islands to Hong Kong.
Besides the nine FIFA officials, sports-marketing executives Alejandro Burzaco, Aaron Davidson, Hugo Jinkis and Mariano Jinkis were indicted on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy and a host of other charges tied to years of ''rampant, systemic and deep-rooted" corruption, as Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch called them.
The Post's Marissa Payne details the charges facing nine FIFA officials in a round of indictments from the U.S., and delves into why FIFA's president Sepp Blatter is not facing charges. (Nicki DeMarco and Marissa Payne/The Washington Post)
The executives are accused of serving as middlemen between FIFA and its six continental confederations, who make most of their money selling media and marketing rights to popular matches, and the legion of TV and radio networks, corporate sponsors and other licensees, who want to broadcast the games or promote their brands.
By bribing corrupt FIFA officials with more than $150 million since 1991, the Justice Department said, the marketing executives secured themselves lucrative multiyear contracts.
[How FIFA became the world's most powerful and loathed sports organization]
About $4 billion of FIFA's $5.7 billion in revenue between 2011 and 2014 came from contracts for TV and marketing rights for the 2014 World Cup, the Justice Department said.
Several prominent South American business leaders were charged in the investigation of what Internal Revenue Service criminal investigation chief Richard Weber called "the World Cup of fraud."
Burzaco, 50, is the chief executive of Torneos y Competencias S.A. (Tournaments and Competitions), an Argentinean sports broadcast firm that runs pay-TV channels, such as TyC Sports, and owns the rights to air key soccer matches, including World Cup qualifiers.
Hugo Jinkis, 70, and his son Mariano Jinkis, 40, were the president and vice president of Full Play Group S.A., an Argentinean sports-marketing agency that holds the TV rights to many South American games.
[Graphic: Charges in the FIFA corruption case]
Jos(C) Margulies, 75, the controlling principal of Valente Corp. and Somerton Ltd., was also accused of helping coordinate the illegal payments between the executives and officials.
The lone American executive charged so far is Aaron Davidson, 44, the president of Traffic Sports USA, a Miami-based arm of the Traffic Group, a Brazilian sports marketing conglomerate.
Davidson is chairman of the board of the North American Soccer League (NASL), and Traffic Sports USA owns stakes in several of its regional soccer franchises, including the Atlanta Silverbacks and the Carolina RailHawks, and a former stake in the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
Davidson spoke for the company in media interviews as recently as last week's Sport Innovation Summit in Mexico City.
Registered in Miami since 1990, Traffic Sports USA is headquartered in a glitzy office tower, Courvoisier Centre, on the gated island of Brickell Key, state business records show. The firm's office line in Miami gave no answer Wednesday.
In 2012, the company won a massive marketing contract with FIFA to manage two mega-popular soccer tournaments for the U.S.-based soccer confederation, CONCACAF: the 2013 Gold Cup and 2015 Champions League.
Davidson said at the time that the company was "honored to have been selected by CONCACAF to represent these prestigious competitions,'' and added that ''being based in South Florida over the past 21 years has been very strategic and advantageous for us."
How firms like the Traffic Group allegedly kept bribes pumping play out over the court records of Jos(C) Hawilla, the firm's 71-year-old Brazilian founder. In December, Hawilla pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice, agreeing to forfeit more than $151 million, including $25 million on the spot.
[FIFA indictments: Questions and answers]
Founded in Sao Paulo in 1980, the privately held Traffic Group focused on the "commercialization of soccer" through buying and selling media rights such as field branding, sponsorship deals and licensed merchandise. In a 2011 lawsuit, Traffic Sports International described itself as "one of the leading sports event and management companies in the world."
Traffic International funneled bribes extensively, investigators said: In five payments starting in 2010, for rights tied to the 2011 Copa America, the firm wired $22 million that bounced between a Miami bank, a Banco de Brasil in New York, and an account in Asuncion, Paraguay.
Federal investigators said Hawilla and his co-conspirators did nearly everything to conceal their scheme, including tapping a Swiss bank account, trusted financial advisers and currency dealers to help hide illegal payments. They also created shell companies and bank accounts in tax havens and secretive jurisdictions, evaded income taxes and resorted to bulk cash smuggling.
Both Traffic Sports International and Traffic Sports USA pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy this month.
[FIFA's ugly stains on the beautiful game]
The executives found a profitable playground in FIFA, which holds more than $1.5 billion in cash reserves. The organization pockets about $1.4 billion from its six official corporate sponsors every four years, with Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai/Kia Motors, Emirates, Sony and Visa pledged as partners for the most recent World Cup.
Made up of 209 regional member associations that represent organized soccer, FIFA is both financially opaque, cloaking much of its spending and executive salaries, and tremendously profitable.
Between 2007 and 2010, when FIFA made 83 percent of its more than $4 billion in revenues off selling TV and marketing rights to the 2010 World Cup, its profits totaled about $631 million, income statements show.
FIFA, or the F(C)d(C)ration Internationale de Football Association, called itself the ''injured party'' in the investigation and said it "welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football,'' a statement released Wednesday said.
Jack Warner, a former FIFA vice president and soccer official from Trinidad and Tobago charged in the U.S. case, said in a statement to the Daily Mail in London that the investigation hid economic motives.
''The large world powers typically take actions to affect world football,'' Warner said. " World football is an enormous international business.''
Post researcher Alice Crites contributed to this report.
Drew Harwell is a national business reporter at The Washington Post.
British banks linked to corrupt FIFA transactions '-- RT UK
Sun, 31 May 2015 03:49
Published time: May 29, 2015 11:15Edited time: May 29, 2015 12:13Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett
British banks have allegedly been party to corrupt transactions worth millions of dollars linked to FIFA, according to legal papers from the US Department of Justice (DoJ).
Barclays and HSBC were named in the papers after the US DoJ noted millions of dollars linked to the corrupt football organization had been moved through their accounts.
The Serious Fraud Office said they wereexamining information relating to possible corruption at FIFA on Friday morning.
A spokesperson said the office was "actively assessing material in its possession and ready to assist international criminal investigations"
Speaking to the House of Commons on Thursday following an urgent question on the FIFA scandal, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale said he would support any investigation the SFO made.
''I have no doubt they will be looking closely to see if any laws have been broken in this country,'' he said.
READ MORE: FIFA corruption arrests fallout LIVE UPDATES
Suspect transactions include the transfer of £320,000 to the account of a luxury yacht manufacturer in London, and the payment of £130,000 from a branch of Barclays in New York to an account in the offshore tax haven the Cayman Islands.
The transactions under investigation are linked to FIFA itself, its officials and their connected companies.
As the official FIFA audit company, international auditors KPMG is also implicated at the heart of the scandal, with hard questions asked about why the accountants gave FIFA a clean bill of health despite allegations of corruption.
''As FIFA's statutory auditor, we are bound by professional confidentiality and have to refrain from any comment,'' a spokesperson said of the allegations.
The potential investigation into British banks comes after seven high ranking FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich on Wednesday ahead of the presidential election, as part of two separate investigations mounted by US and Swiss authorities.
The 14 charged are believed to include ''businessmen, bankers and other trusted intermediaries who laundered illicit payments,'' according to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Many of the transactions relate to sports marketing company Traffic, which is owned by one of the accused Aaron Davidson, the US DoJ documents reveal.
READ MORE: FIFA arrests: Cameron calls for Blatter resignation
The scandal is also expected to involve a number of US banks. Analyst Pepe Escobar told RT that at the center of the scandal are members of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) making corrupt transactions in American banks.
''The number one whistleblower is an American citizen, Chuck Blazer '' the number two at CONCACAF '' who gave all the important information to the FBI. It's basically all connected to corruption involving people in the CONCACAF transiting to American banks''
Members of FIFA will cast their votes on Friday afternoon to decide the organization's new president.
Current President Sepp Blatter will attempt to secure a fifth term, but is facing calls from numerous governments to stand down. His only opposition is the current vice-President Prince Ali bin al-Hussein.
Escobar said he believed Blatter would retain the position, saying he was an ''extremely wily character'' who had won huge support in Africa and Asia, and was also likely to be supported by the South Americans.
The vote is slated to take place at 16:00 BST.
NA-Tech News
Microsoft's Cortana coming to Google, Apple devices
Thu, 28 May 2015 14:43
Microsoft's Cortana coming to Google, Apple devicesHTTP/1.1 200 OK Date: Thu, 28 May 2015 14:43:55 GMT Server: Apache Vary: Accept-Encoding Content-Encoding: gzip Transfer-Encoding: chunked Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8
1 hour ago by Matt Day, The Seattle TimesMicrosoft's Cortana virtual assistant will be released later this year for users of Google and Apple smartphones.
The Seattle-area company announced the move on Tuesday, saying that Cortana is coming to other platforms alongside other new apps designed to let Windows 10 users to link the files on their iPhone or Google smartphone to their Windows PC. Microsoft's aim with the Windows 10 operating system, set for release later this year, is in part to grab more attention on smartphones amid anemic market share for its own Windows Phone operating system.
Cortana, released for Windows Phone last year, is a voice-activated application that's part search engine, part scheduling assistant and application manager. Microsoft bills the app as a way to give people information they need when they need it. Google's Now service and Apple's Siri perform similar functions. Cortana has until now been available only on Windows Phone, though Microsoft announced in January that the application would be integrated into Windows 10.
Cortana won't have all of its features on the other platforms because Google and Apple don't offer third-party app makers like Microsoft the necessary system access, Microsoft's Joe Belfiore said in a blog post.
In addition to Cortana, a new Phone Companion feature with Windows 10 will sync users' photos, documents and files stored in Microsoft's OneDrive Web-accessed storage, Belfiore said. An Xbox music app will be designed to perform the same function for users' music libraries.
"Regardless of the operating systems you choose across your devices, everything important to you should roam across the products you already own - including your phone," Belfiore said.
The Phone Companion app will show up in a few weeks as an update to the preview version of Windows 10 currently in testing, Belfiore said. Cortana for Google's Android will be available at the end of June, with an Apple variant set for release later this year.
Explore further:OrangeSec pair said Cortana visited Android
(C)2015 The Seattle TimesDistributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Microsoft's Cortana coming to Google, Apple devicesHTTP/1.1 200 OK Date: Thu, 28 May 2015 14:43:55 GMT Server: Apache Vary: Accept-Encoding Content-Encoding: gzip Transfer-Encoding: chunked Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8
1 hour ago by Matt Day, The Seattle TimesMicrosoft's Cortana virtual assistant will be released later this year for users of Google and Apple smartphones.
The Seattle-area company announced the move on Tuesday, saying that Cortana is coming to other platforms alongside other new apps designed to let Windows 10 users to link the files on their iPhone or Google smartphone to their Windows PC. Microsoft's aim with the Windows 10 operating system, set for release later this year, is in part to grab more attention on smartphones amid anemic market share for its own Windows Phone operating system.
Cortana, released for Windows Phone last year, is a voice-activated application that's part search engine, part scheduling assistant and application manager. Microsoft bills the app as a way to give people information they need when they need it. Google's Now service and Apple's Siri perform similar functions. Cortana has until now been available only on Windows Phone, though Microsoft announced in January that the application would be integrated into Windows 10.
Cortana won't have all of its features on the other platforms because Google and Apple don't offer third-party app makers like Microsoft the necessary system access, Microsoft's Joe Belfiore said in a blog post.
In addition to Cortana, a new Phone Companion feature with Windows 10 will sync users' photos, documents and files stored in Microsoft's OneDrive Web-accessed storage, Belfiore said. An Xbox music app will be designed to perform the same function for users' music libraries.
"Regardless of the operating systems you choose across your devices, everything important to you should roam across the products you already own - including your phone," Belfiore said.
The Phone Companion app will show up in a few weeks as an update to the preview version of Windows 10 currently in testing, Belfiore said. Cortana for Google's Android will be available at the end of June, with an Apple variant set for release later this year.
Explore further:OrangeSec pair said Cortana visited Android
(C)2015 The Seattle TimesDistributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
F.C.C. Chief Seeks Broadband Plan to Aid the Poor -
Fri, 29 May 2015 16:51
For 30 years, the federal government has helped millions of low-income Americans pay their phone bills, saying that telephone service is critical to summoning medical help, seeking work and, ultimately, climbing out of poverty. Now, the nation's top communications regulator will propose offering those same people subsidized access to broadband Internet.
On Thursday, that regulator, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, will circulate a plan to his fellow commissioners suggesting sweeping changes to a $1.7 billion subsidy program charged with ensuring that all Americans have affordable access to advanced telecommunications services, according to senior agency officials.
The effort is the F.C.C.'s strongest recognition yet that high-speed Internet access is as essential to economic well-being as good transportation and telephone service. Mr. Wheeler will propose potentially giving recipients a choice of phone service, Internet service or a mix of both, the officials said. He will also suggest new measures to curb fraud, a source of criticism in recent years.
While the plan is likely to secure the support of the F.C.C.'s Democratic majority in a vote next month, it is almost certain to also set off fierce debate in Washington. The subsidy program, Lifeline, has faced extensive scrutiny. And many of Mr. Wheeler's previous actions, including his successful push to regulate broadband Internet as a public utility, have drawn indignation from opponents.
More than 12 million households now participate in Lifeline, which was created in 1985 by the Reagan administration to subsidize landline telephone service. In 2008, the program was extended to cover the cost of mobile phones. Enrollment rose sharply '-- as did abuse, with some households receiving more than their single allowed subsidy. To qualify, a household must have an income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty line, or must participate in a program like Medicaid or food stamps.
Gene Kimmelman, who lobbied as a consumer advocate to create Lifeline, said the program was meant to keep people from having to choose between essentials like food, electricity and phone service. Now, he said, Internet access needed to be added to the list.
''Broadband is every bit as important today as plain old phone service was 30 years ago,'' said Mr. Kimmelman, a former Justice Department official who is now chief executive of Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group.
Mr. Wheeler's proposal is an effort to bridge the so-called digital divide, the ever-widening economic and social inequalities of those with access to technology and those without it. In 2000, 3 percent of Americans had broadband at home, according to Pew Research. In 2013, 70 percent did. But the adoption of broadband in low-income and minority households has not kept pace.
According to Pew data from 2013, the most recent year for which numbers are available, 54 percent of those making less than $30,000 a year have broadband, compared with 88 percent of those making more than $75,000. The same survey found that 53 percent of Hispanics and 64 percent of blacks in the United States have high-speed Internet at home, compared with 74 percent of whites.
For recipients like Sharell Harmon, a 23-year-old single mother from Elkins, W.Va., the Lifeline program has made a big difference.
''Without a phone, I couldn't connect with my job, my kids' doctors or their schools,'' said Ms. Harmon, who works full time in construction while pursuing a college degree. ''You don't realize how many people you have to talk to until you can't.''
Under her plan, she is entitled to 250 minutes of talk time and 1,000 text messages a month, limits she says she never comes close to crossing. But, Ms. Harmon said, she also needs high-speed Internet to feel fully connected and has struggled to pay her broadband bill.
''Everything is online these days,'' said Ms. Harmon, who said she supported any effort to allow the subsidy to be applied to broadband. ''I take classes online, do my schoolwork. My kids play math and phonics games.''
A vote on Mr. Wheeler's proposal is expected on June 18, according to the senior agency officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing a plan that had not yet been circulated among all five commissioners. If the plan wins majority approval, as expected, the antifraud measures would take effect soon after. The commission would then discuss the specifics of incorporating broadband into the program, and write rules to govern it. A final vote on the plan could come before the end of the year.
The Lifeline program offers each household a $9.25 monthly subsidy toward the cost of service; it was not until 2008, when the benefit was extended to prepaid mobile phones, which cost less than landlines, that some phone connections became fully free for Lifeline recipients. Mr. Wheeler is proposing setting service standards, which could include a specified number of mobile minutes and minimum broadband speed. Debate over just how far a $9.25 credit can go in covering the cost of broadband is sure to arise.
The plan will almost certainly face strong criticism. Some Republicans recently expressed skepticism that the F.C.C. has fully rooted out abuse from the program. In April 2014, the Justice Department indicted three people on charges that they defrauded the agency of $32 million in false Lifeline claims from September 2009 to March 2011.
In 2012, the F.C.C. instituted stricter safeguards, including the establishment of a database that crosschecked that no household received more than one subsidy. In March, the Government Accountability Office issued a report evaluating the effect of those changes. It said that the number of participating households had fallen to about 12 million in 2014 from about 18 million in 2012, suggesting more households were being held to one subsidy.
''The reforms had some impact, but whether they've reduced all of the fraud, we can't tell,'' said Michael E. Clements, an acting director at the G.A.O. who helped write the report. Mr. Clements said that of the 11 primary reforms the F.C.C. had said it would make in 2012, four had yet to be completed, according to his office's recent review.
In response to the report, Michael O'Rielly, a Republican commissioner on the F.C.C., called the Lifeline program ''inefficient, costly and in serious need of review.''
Mr. Wheeler's push for new safeguards may be partly an effort to pre-emptively answer the program's critics. Service providers currently must verify participants' eligibility for Lifeline, and under the new plan, they would be required to keep proof of that eligibility and make it available if audited, senior F.C.C. officials said.
There has been speculation in Washington for months about changes to the program. A Senate subcommittee hearing is already scheduled for June 2 to examine its effectiveness and ways to prevent further abuse. The office of the senator who called the hearing, Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
''The program has been under attack, and the F.C.C. is currently facing incredible political pressure,'' said Michael Scurato, policy director of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. ''It wasn't always this contentious to make sure our neighbors in this country are connected to communications of the day.''
Broadband Subsidies for Some, Broadband Taxes for Everyone
Fri, 29 May 2015 16:50
WASHINGTON D.C. '-- At a briefing this morning, the FCC announced that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler plans to expand the Universal Service Fund's Lifeline program, allowing low-income consumers to spend the program's $9.25/month subsidy on broadband Internet or telephone service. Wheeler will circulate a draft proposal today, to be voted on at the Commission's June 18 meeting. Any increase in Lifeline spending will be funded by increased USF fees on telecom services '-- which will soon include broadband itself.
''The FCC is dodging the obvious: expanding Lifeline means new broadband taxes and higher taxes overall on telecom services,'' said Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom. ''The FCC made broadband taxes inevitable when it reclassified broadband as a telecom service '-- it's just a question of the FCC's Joint Board finding the least awkward time to make it official. USF taxes are the most regressive taxes in America, so families just above the eligibility threshold will suffer most.''
''As long as we're going to have a Universal Service Fund, extending Lifeline to support broadband adoption makes sense '-- but not if the FCC creates a new entitlement program that will continue to grow in size,''continued Szoka, noting that Lifeline spending grew 25.9% annually from 2008 to 2012, from $819 million to $2.19 billion. ''Total Lifeline spending needs to be capped to minimize the need for new taxes, with subsidies prioritized for the poorest Americans. And if the goal is to bring non-adopters online, rather than to subsidize those who already pay for broadband, the data suggest the problem isn't primarily affordability, but digital literacy and perceived relevance of the Internet. Those aren't problems subsidies can solve.''
''Lifeline is the only USF program without a budget or any cap,'' explained Szoka. ''That means USF fees will automatically increase each year to meet increased demand. The FCC says its Notice will ask whether 'this is the right time to have a budget' for the program and insists Lifeline won't grow in size because the amount of the subsidy won't change and because of minimum service requirements. Basic arithmetic suggests the program will grow:
Annual spending will grow by $111/year for every household that signs up for the first time.The FCC's minimum service requirements will mean the service plans will be more, not less, expensive over time. And it's naive to think there won't be political pressure for the FCC to raise the subsidy to fund more of the cost of faster broadband.Once established as permanent, elastic entitlement, the FCC will always be lobbied to expand eligibility and to allow multiple recipients (for wireless service) per household.The idea that Lifeline recipients might have to bear any part of the cost of service seems to embarrass the FCC. But until 2007, Lifeline never provided completely free service. President Reagan created the program to offer discounts for basic phone service, not free service. The difference is crucial: without skin in the game, fraud, waste and abuse are inevitable.''###
We can be reached for comment at See more of our work on Universal Service and Title II, including:
''FCC Lifeline Reform a Good Start but Storm Clouds Loom,'' a statement from TechFreedomHighlights from legal and policy comments on Title II filed by TechFreedom and the International Center for Law & Economics on net neutrality, and our reply comments
Subsidized Broadband: FCC Chairman Plans To Expand ''Obama Phone'' Program to Internet'...
Fri, 29 May 2015 18:32
Oh, how nice'...
Via CNS News:
( '' Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler announced on Thursday that he intends to expand Lifeline, popularly known as the ''Obama Phone'' program, to the Internet.
''I am circulating new proposals to ''reboot'' Lifeline for the Internet age,'' Wheeler wrote in a blog post on the FCC's Website. He said the reboot would include ''establishing minimum standards of service for voice and broadband,'' in addition to subsidies for low-income consumers.
Lifeline is a government benefit program that provides a monthly subsidy of $9.95 on telephone service for those at or below 135 percent of the poverty line so they can connect to the nation's communications networks, find jobs, access health care services, connect with family and their children's schools, and call for help in an emergency.
The money comes out of the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is funded through fees paid by consumers on telephone service. The fee is generally itemized on customers' monthly telephone bills and is currently assessed at a rate of 16.1 percent of the bill.
The size of the Lifeline program has doubled since 2008, increasing from $819 million to $1.6 billion in 2014. It reached a high of $2.19 billion in 2012 amid allegations of fraud and abuse.
The USF, meanwhile, has increased from $7.2 billion in 2008 to $10.34 billion in 2014, with Chairman Wheeler's staff estimating a level of $12.1 billion in 2016. However, that estimate does not account for prospective Internet subsidies.
In his post, Wheeler said, ''30 percent of Americans still haven't adopted broadband at home'.... While more than 95 percent of households with incomes over $150,000 have broadband, only 48 percent of those making less than $25,000 have service at home.''
Keep Reading'...
Oh, no! Bill Nye's solar sail spacecraft has lost contact with Earth - The Washington Post
Sat, 30 May 2015 17:55
In a tragic twist of events, Bill Nye's solar-particle-propelled spacecraft has lost communications with Earth.
The error, which stems from a simple software glitch, potentially threatens the entire mission: The only thing researchers think will salvage the experiment is a reboot of the computer '-- and efforts to reset the orbiting craft, called LightSail, aren't working.
"There have been 37 Cal Poly and Georgia Tech ground station passes," wrote Jason Davis, Planetary Society's digital editor, in a blog post. "During half of those, reboot commands were sent to the spacecraft. Nothing has happened yet. Therefore, we have to assume that LightSail is only going to respond to the power button method."
LightSail is humanity's most ambitious attempt yet at harnessing solar propulsion. The small satellite comes with a 344-square-foot solar sail designed to accelerate the craft using only the tiny particles that are constantly being ejected from the sun.
But the early malfunction has largely taken the wind out of LightSail's, er, sail. Researchers traced the problem to an onboard data file that was constantly being updated with new information. Eventually the file size got too big, and it crashed the craft's avionics system, rendering it unresponsive.
"There's nobody in outer space to push that reset button," Nye told Davis.
The only alternative now is to wait for a stray charged particle to hit the craft and cause a reboot '-- basically, the space-borne equivalent of giving your computer a whack, and hoping it works.
Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecom, broadband and digital politics. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
War on Ca$h
Ex-US Speaker indicted over $3.5 million in payments - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: |
Thu, 28 May 2015 23:04
By MICHAEL TARMAssociated PressCHICAGO (AP) - Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced the indictment of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert for evading banking laws and lying to the FBI about payments he made to an unidentified person to conceal past misconduct.
The indictment does not describe the misconduct Hastert was trying to conceal.
The details were included in an indictment in which the 73-year-old Illinois Republican is charged with two counts including withdrawing in cash in small amounts to evade the requirement that banks report cash transactions over $10,000. He's also charged with lying to the FBI.
Each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago.
The Associated Press left a phone message seeking comment with a person at Hastert's Washington, D.C., office. It was not immediately returned. Hastert did not immediately return a message left on his cellphone seeking comment, or respond to an email.
From 2010 to 2014, Hastert withdrew a total of approximately $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts and provided it to a person identified only as Individual A, according to the indictment.
In December last year, "Hastert falsely stated that he was keeping the cash" when questioned by the FBI, the prosecutor's statement says.
Hastert, a former high school wrestling coach, was a little known lawmaker from suburban Chicago when chosen to succeed conservative Newt Gingrich as speaker. Hastert was picked after favored Louisiana Congressman Bob Livingston resigned following his admission of several sexual affairs.
As speaker, Hastert pushed President George W. Bush's legislative agenda, helping pass a massive tax cut and expanding Medicare prescription drug benefits.
He retired from Congress in 2007 after eight years as speaker, making him the longest-serving Republican House speaker.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Dennis Hastert's secret gay 'misconduct' is opposite to his voting record on gay rights
Sun, 31 May 2015 03:11
(C) Shutterstock
Though he paid millions to keep a man quiet about the nature of their relationship, former House speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was a reliable opponent of gay civil rights during his tenure in Congress.On Thursday, a federal grand jury indicted Hastert, alleging that he agreed to pay a man $3.5 million over several years in exchange for the latter's silence about his prior relationship with the lawmaker, the Associated Press reports. According to the indictment, Hastert gave $1.7 million to the man between 2010 and 2014, who Hastert knew from his past career as a high school teacher and wrestling coach, as compensation for Hastert's "past misconduct," and for said misconduct's concealment.
Although the indictment provides little information about the nature of that misconduct, the Los Angeles Times, citing law enforcement sources, reports that Hastert was paying to cover up sexual indiscretions with a a person of the same gender he knew from coaching youth wrestling.
"I felt a special bond with our wrestlers," Hastert wrote in his 2004 memoir. "And I think they felt one with me."
Hastert would be only the latest conservative Christian political figure to be revealed as engaging in a homosexual lifestyle he demonized as a lawmaker. His record fighting against gay rights is lengthy and rich.
As a federal legislator, Hastert voted regularly against bills to empower gay people. In Congress from 1997 to 2007, Hastert voted for the so-called "Marriage Protection Act," and in favor of a constitutional amendment to "establish that marriage shall consist of one man and one woman." The year he stepped down, Hastert voted no on the "Employment Non-Discrimination Act," a bill to prohibit companies from discriminating against employees "on the basis of sexual orientation."
Noting Hastert's "deeply conservative" policy positions back in 1998, the Associated Press reported the "National Right to Life Committee, the Christian Coalition, the Chamber of Commerce, and the National Rifle Association all gave his voting record perfect scores of 100."
Hastert resigned as speaker of the House following allegations that he failed to report former Representative Mark Foley (R-FL) for inappropriate relationships with boys employed as pages at the U.S. Capitol.
At a Christian Coalition meeting in 2004, Hastert told the audience that Republicans would push for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as solely between one man and one woman. He said the amendment would send a "strong message to liberal activist judges."
"We will not allow them to put our children's future at risk because of their agenda for political correctness," Hastert added. He also said House Republicans had added language to a budget bill that would increase funding for abstinence sex education. "More kids need to be taught to just say no, that doesn't just apply to drugs, it also applies to sex before marriage," Hastert remarked.
In his autobiography, more than a decade old now, Hastert wrote, "I was never a very good liar. Maybe I wasn't smart enough. I could never get away with it, so I made up my mind as a kid to tell the truth and pay the consequences."
Watch Hastert assure Christian Coalition allies he would represent their sexual morality policy agenda in Congress: Denny Hastert and the Fed's War on Cash
Sun, 31 May 2015 03:37
By Jeff DeistGovernments, at least modern western governments, have always hated cash. Cash is private, and cash transactions are hard to tax. As Joe Salerno explains, the US fedgov's relentless War on Cash has been ongoing.Now one of the primary weapons in that War, the misnamed Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, has targeted a prominent retired politician.When I worked for Ron Paul in the early 2000s, Illinois Congressman and Speaker of the House Denny Hastert was known as an amiable guy. He was not seen as a political hitman like Newt Gingrich, and thus House Republicans installed him as the kinder, gentler face of the GOP caucus. Behind the scenes, however, he was widely considered a puppet of Majority Leader Tom DeLay and the Bush White House.Rumors about skeletons in Hastert's closet did circulate among congressional staffers. But it always seemed unlikely that he had a long history of extramarital affairs, simply because of the Bob Livingston debacle. Livingston was tapped to succeed Gingrich as Speaker, until revelations of (Livingston's) marital indiscretions opened the door for Hastert. Surely House GOP leaders would not be so stupid as to nominate another philanderer (gay or straight) for Speaker? But who knows.Now Hastert has been charged with two noncrimes: allegedly "structuring" over $1 million in cash withdrawals from several banks (i.e. taking out less than $10,000 repeatedly); and allegedly lying to FBI agents about what he had done with the money. First and foremost, withdrawing one's own cash from a bank is none of fedgov's business. But of course the feds hate privacy almost as much as they hate not taxing every human transaction. So the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, sold to the public as a tool to fight money laundering and drug trafficking (for the children!), was born. And along with it came the odious requirement for financial institutions to report any cash withdrawals over $10,000. Keep in mind that the original $10,000 reporting rule has never been adjusted for inflation. In 1970, $10,000 could buy a new car, appliances, expensive jewelry, etc. Just keeping pace with official BLS CPI would require raising the reporting amount to nearly $61,000 today! So even if one accepts the premises of the Bank Secrecy Act, individuals should be allowed to withdraw, carry, and conduct business with $60,000 in cash without any suspicion.Also note that the "structuring" prohibition was added by one of the many amendments to the original Act. Cash withdrawals of $10,000 or more from a bank must be reported, but withdrawals of less than $10,000 may also need to be reported... And the person making this Junior G-Man decision may be a 20 year old bank teller!While the original Act mandated reporting by financial institutions, subsequent legislation has significantly expanded the types of businesses that must comply. Insurance companies, casinos, car dealers, jewelry dealers, coin shops, and pawn shops have all been deputized into federal service-- and they're all terrified of the penalties for noncompliance. Look for the War on Cash to intensify.
Hillary 2016
Clinton Foundation hit with racketeering lawsuit |
Sun, 31 May 2015 03:04
The lawsuit, filed by Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, includes a legal request to have the...Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation have been hit with a racketeering lawsuit in Florida court.
The lawsuit, filed by Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, includes a legal request to have the Florida judge seize the private server on which Hillary Clinton and her aides hosted their emails while she served as secretary of state.
Klayman has filed dozens of lawsuits against the Clintons and other prominent politicians.
The racketeering, influenced and corrupt organizations, or RICO, case alleges the former first couple and their family philanthropy traded political favors for donations or generous speaking fees for Bill Clinton while his wife was the nation's chief diplomat.
"Negotiations by email about influencing U.S. foreign policy or U.S. Government actions to benefit donors to ... The Clinton Foundation or sponsors of speaking engagements would not be captured on a U.S. Government email account because her emails would not be with a U.S. Government official," Klayman said in court documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.
"Hillary Clinton deleted 32,000 email messages from her email server that included her communications arranging, negotiating, and agreeing upon speaking engagements by Bill Clinton in return for large speaking fees and donations to The Clinton Foundation," the documents, dated May 20, said.
Klayman pushed the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to order a "neutral forensic expert ... to take custody and control of the private email server and reconstruct and preserve the official U.S. Government records relating to the conduct of U.S. foreign policy during Defendant Secretary Clinton's term as Secretary of State."
Hillary Clinton handed over 55,000 printed pages of emails to the State Department in November of last year and reportedly erased the remaining records off her private server.
Critics of Clinton's decision to forgo use of an official email account argue the presidential candidate could have simply withheld any incriminating messages from the batch she gave the State Department.
Her supporters have dubbed the quest for Clinton's State Department emails a partisan "witch hunt."
Klayman pointed to the litany of scandals involving missing records that have followed the Clintons for decades, including the fact that thousands of emails disappeared during Bill Clinton's administration after White House officials threatened internal computer experts who blew the whistle on the "suppression."
"It's a perfect RICO case, it fits completely," Klayman said of the lawsuit. "Our Congress doesn't even have the guts to subpoena her documents. They'd rather get on Fox News. So we felt had to bring that case. Somebody's got to do it."
Klayman said a major reason for his lawsuit involves the fact that Cheryl Mills, then-chief of staff to Hillary Clinton, and the secretary of state herself "lied to the lower court" in by claiming there were no documents related to a pair of Freedom of Information Act requests he filed in 2012 while knowing those records actually did exist on the private server.
One FOIA, filed May 2012, pertained to allegations that Hillary Clinton issued waivers for preferred companies to do business with Iran despite strict congressional sanctions. The other probed a 2012 leak of classified information about Israel and Iran to the New York Times and was filed in June of that year.
Klayman said records on the Clintons' private server are "in imminent danger of being lost" in court documents and urged the court to intervene.
Clinton Foundation officials did not return a request for comment on the case.
The massive charity drew fire after a book by Peter Schweizer entitled Clinton Cash suggested foreign governments and companies with interests before the State Department donated to the foundation with the expectation that Hillary or Bill Clinton would ensure they received preferential treatment from the agency.
Big Pharma
Ecstasy could help alleviate anxiety for terminally ill patients
Fri, 29 May 2015 18:14
(C) REUTERS/U.S.Ecstasy pills, which contain MDMA as their main chemical, are pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration
California scientists are testing whether the illegal psychoactive drug commonly known as Ecstasy could help alleviate anxiety for terminally ill patients, the trial's principal funder said on Tuesday.At least a dozen subjects with life-threatening diseases like cancer, and who are expected to live at least 9 months, will participate in the double-blind trial over the next year in Marin County, said Brad Burge, spokesman for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.
Each subject will be randomly given either a full dose - 125 milligrams of MDMA, or a placebo with none of the drug, Burge said.
Burge said the goal is to test whether gravely ill patients suffering from debilitating anxiety, fear or depression due to their diagnoses can find a measure of peace during the extended ecstasy-influenced psychotherapy sessions.
The trial's principal investigator, Dr. Philip Wolfson, told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper that the MDMA experience, lasting four or five hours, can be "transformationally potent" under controlled settings with a pair of trained therapists.
"It's a substance that supports deep, meaningful and rapidly effective psychotherapy," Wolfson told the Chronicle.
MDMA is a psychoactive drug that has been banned under federal law for decades.
While the Drug Enforcement Administration declined to comment, Burge said the federal agency has certified the security infrastructure of the clinic.
The Food and Drug Administration said U.S. law and FDA regulations prohibit the agency from disclosing information about drugs that are being developed and studied, said spokeswoman Sandy Walsh.
Results were expected within 12 to 15 months.
"Our hypothesis is that something is happening with MDMA that makes psychotherapy easier," Burge said.
"So with a lower dose of MDMA in the active placebo, it might fool the subject or the therapist. And by giving people the option of following up with another half dose, it just extends the window for therapy rather than making it more intense."
Those receiving the full dose have an option later to take another 62.5 milligram dose as part of the same session, and those receiving the placebo can later re-enter the trial, he said.
Legal highs: Seven-year jail terms under 'blanket ban' - BBC News
Sat, 30 May 2015 18:11
Legal highs can be smoked, snorted or swallowed A new "blanket ban" on so-called legal highs will carry prison sentences of up to seven years, the government says.
Ministers are to publish draft laws they say are a "landmark" in prohibiting the substances' production, distribution, sale and supply.
Legal highs, officially called new psychoactive substances, have been linked to a number of deaths.
Ministers said young people who took them were "taking exceptional risks with their health".
A blanket ban on legal highs, which are often sold online or on the high street, was in the Conservative Party's election manifesto and featured in the Queen's Speech.
Labour also promised to ban their sale and distribution in its manifesto.
'Fundamental change'The Psychoactive Substances Bill applied to "any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect", the government said.
Alcohol, tobacco and caffeine will be excluded, and there are also exemptions for food and medical products, while controlled drugs will continue to be regulated by existing laws.
The new restrictions will also extend to the sale of nitrous oxide - also known as laughing gas or "hippy crack" - for human use.
There is currently no blanket ban on the sale of legal highs, also known as new psychoactive substances Legal highs are psychoactive drugs that contain various chemical ingredients, some of which are illegal while others are notThey produce similar effects to illegal drugs like cocaine, cannabis and ecstasyThey are sold in a variety of forms, including powder, pills, liquids, capsules, perforated tabs and smoking mixturesThe substances are often sold in "head shops" alongside drug paraphernaliaWhat are legal highs?
The government said the "legitimate sale" of nitrous oxide, which is also used for food processing, medicinal and industrial purposes, would not be affected.
Home Office minister Mike Penning said the measures would "fundamentally change the way we tackle new psychoactive substances".
'Cat and mouse'They would end the "game of cat and mouse" whereby new drugs appeared on the market more quickly than the government could identify and ban them, he said.
He added: "The blanket ban will give police and other law enforcement agencies greater powers to tackle the reckless trade in psychoactive substances, instead of having to take a substance-by-substance approach."
Legal highs are not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act, although individual substances, such as mephedrone, have been outlawed.
The government's proposals would apply throughout the United Kingdom, and would include powers to seize and destroy legal highs and to search people, premises and vehicles.
Civil measures - including prohibition notices and prohibition orders - will also be possible.
Commander Simon Bray, of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said: "A blanket ban on new psychoactive substances will make it simpler for law enforcement to deal with those drugs which are potentially unsafe but which may not yet be controlled."
Ministry of Truth
Bye bye! Over one hundred newspapers dumped in 2014, ads down 50%, circulation hits bottom
Tue, 26 May 2015 16:56
(C) NY Daily News
The demise of big city print media, displayed in full by the painfully slow sale of the mammoth New York Daily News, is going nationwide as ad sales decline 50 percent and circulation plummets, according to a new Pew Research Center analysisAccording to their report, "The Declining Value Of U.S. Newspapers," just three different media companies in 2014 alone decided to dump more than 100 newspaper properties. Pew said the companies spun off the money-losing properties "in large part to protect their still-robust broadcast or digital divisions."
The Daily News, on the block since February, has yet to be sold and is now being eyed by Captiol Hill's newspaper The Hill, which may turn it into a digital operation like the Washington Examiner, Huffington Post, Brietbart and the Daily Caller.
The Pew report is short and very unsweet:
Over the past two decades, major newspapers across the country have seen a recurring cycle of ownership changes and steep declines in value.
The San Diego Union-Tribune was the latest example of this, as it officially changed ownership hands Thursday for the third time in six years. This most recent purchase came from Tribune Publishing Co. for the amount of $85 million (including nine community papers). Still waiting for a buyer is the 96-year-old New York tabloid the Daily News, which owner Mort Zuckerman put on the sale block this spring. But there seems to be far from a stampede of interested buyers.
Steep revenue and circulation declines across the newspaper industry have left many newspapers struggling. Over the past decade, weekday circulation has fallen 17% and ad revenue more than 50%. In 2014 alone, three different media companies decided to spin off more than 100 newspaper properties, in large part to protect their still-robust broadcast or digital divisions. founder Jeff Bezos may have stunned many with his $250 million purchase of The Washington Post, which was last sold at auction in 1933, but other recent sales of major papers show dramatic devaluation and suggest a tough road ahead for the newspaper industry.
$hadow Puppet Theatre
TSA Body Scanner Lobbyist Takes Congressional Job Overseeing Spending on TSA Security - The Intercept
Thu, 28 May 2015 04:08
Rapiscan Systems lobbied aggressively to win a major contract with the Transportation Security Administration to provide X-ray body scanners at airports, only to lose the contract in 2013 after the company failed to deliver software to protect the privacy of passengers.
Rapiscan now has a friend on the inside.
Earlier this month, Rapiscan lobbyist Christopher Romig took a job with the House Appropriations Committee's Homeland Security Subcommittee, which oversees the TSA budget.
During the previous push for a TSA contract, Rapiscan employed Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security, who now works as a pundit and a homeland security industry consultant through his firm the Chertoff Group. According to the Huffington Post, Rapiscan previously spent as much as $271,500 on lobbying per year to help secure business with the TSA.
Romig's shift through the revolving door was first noted by Legistorm.
In his last lobbying filing statement, Romig disclosed that he lobbied Congress on ''aviation, port and border security,'' as well as the ''budget and appropriation.'' All areas he will now supervise as a professional staff member.
(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty
Haiti holds a special place in the hearts of Bill and Hillary Clinton
Sat, 30 May 2015 18:13
In the strange circle of life, it all comes back to Haiti.
When Bill Clinton married Hillary Rodham in 1975, a friend gave them a trip to Haiti. Since that honeymoon vacation, the Caribbean island nation has held a life-long allure for the couple, a place they found at once desperate and enchanting, pulling at their emotions throughout his presidency and in her maiden year as secretary of state.
With the world's attention now trained on the devastated Haitian capital, rebuilding the country will be a central part of Bill and Hillary Clinton's lives going forward. And for the 42nd president, the catastrophe offers the opportunity to fulfill whatever unrealized ambitions he has for the long-suffering nation.
"This is a personal thing for us," Bill Clinton said in a interview Thursday. He said he and his wife have "always felt a special responsibility" for Haiti and its 9 million people. "She has the same memories I do. She has the same concerns I do. We love the place."
On that first trip in December 1975, Clinton said he and his wife watched as a wreath was placed at the national monument to celebrate Haitian Independence Day. They toured the old hotel where the writer Ernest Hemingway once stayed and visited a voodoo high priest dressed in all white. They sat in a lonely pew of the Port-au-Prince National Cathedral, which lies in ruin following Tuesday's earthquake.
"We just became fascinated with the country," Bill Clinton said by telephone from his charitable foundation's office in New York. "We followed all its ups and downs."
The Clintons' enthrallment has lasted for more than 30 years. They decorated their homes with Haitian art. They flew back again and again. Hillary Clinton once said that theirs was a "Haiti-obsessed family." At a dinner in Rwanda with African leaders in 2008, Bill Clinton talked more about Haiti than Rwanda.
When the Clintons learned that sites in Port-au-Prince they had visited as tourists were destroyed in the earthquake and locals they had come to know were injured or unaccounted for, Bill Clinton said he was "personally emotionally affected." His wife, he said, became "physically sick."
The Clintons are at the center of the global relief effort. Bill Clinton is the U.N. special envoy to Haiti and, together with former president George W. Bush, is leading America's humanitarian and long-term recovery efforts in Haiti. Hillary Clinton is among the top officials responsible for the nation's work aiding Haiti and its paralyzed government, and plans to fly there Saturday. "The two agencies in the world that can run these things are the United States and the United Nations, and the Clintons sit atop this package," said former senator Tim Wirth, president of the U.N. Foundation.
Three months into her term last spring, Hillary Clinton addressed the Haiti Donors Conference in Washington, where she spoke of her family's "deep commitment to Haiti and the people of Haiti." She told of visiting the Haitian town of Pignon as first lady, meeting a country doctor who ran a health, women's literacy and micro-credit center to help his countrymen gain a foothold in the global economy.
"For some of us, Haiti is a neighbor and, for others of us, it is a place of historic and cultural ties," Clinton said. "But for all of us, it is now a test of resolve and commitment."
* * *
That time Bill and Hillary Clinton went to a voodoo ceremony in Haiti - The Washington Post
Sat, 30 May 2015 22:19
Kevin Sullivan and Rosalind Helderman have two newstories out on the Clinton Foundation's recent high-profile work in Haiti, but Bill and Hillary Clinton's interest in the country goes back much, much further than that.
In his memoir "My Life," the former president wrote a vivid account of a trip the couple's first trip to Haiti in 1975 -- which had been a wedding gift from their friend David Edwards, who had some business to do there for Citibank and some extra frequent flyer miles.
Bill Clinton wrote that "the most interesting day of the trip" came when he, Hillary and Edwards got a chance to see voodoo in practice in a village near Port-au-Prince. The priest was Max Beauvoir, a former chemical engineer who had studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. Beauvoir had abandoned that career when his voodoo-priest grandfather died and named him as his successor.
Beauvoir gave the three visitors what Clinton described as a "brief course in voodoo theology." And then the late-afternoon ceremony began. Clinton wrote:
"After several minutes of rhythmic dancing to pounding drums, the spirits arrived, seizing a woman and a man. The man proceeded to rub a burning torch all over his body and walk on hot coals without being burned. The woman, in a frenzy, screamed repeatedly, then grabbed a live chicken and bit its head off. Then the spirits left and those who had been possessed fell to the ground."
Clinton wrote that his "brief foray into the world of voodoo" furthered his fascination with "the way different cultures try to make sense of life, nature, and the virtually universal belief that there is a nonphysical spirit force at work in the world."
The trip to Haiti also came at a pivotal time for Clinton himself. Then a law professor, he had lost the political campaign he had waged, a race for Congress. He was trying to decide whether it was worth giving running for office another try. There was going to be an opening for Arkansas attorney general.
"By the time we got back from Haiti, I had determined to run for attorney general," Clinton recalled. This time, he won -- and was on his way to the White House.
One lesson he took from Haiti, he wrote: "The Lord works in mysterious ways."
[How the Clinton's Haiti development plans succeed -- and disappoint]
Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.
Psychiatrist: Batman Movie Theater Shooter 'Legally Sane' During 2012 Massacre | The Daily Caller
Sun, 31 May 2015 03:48
Nearly three weeks into the trial of James Holmes, the gunman who murdered 12 and injured 70 at the midnight premiere of ''The Dark Knight Rises,'' the court-appointed psychiatrist Dr. William Reid testified Thursday that Holmes was capable of understanding what he was doing during the attack.
Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity following the shooting, and after two years at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, Dr. Reid recorded 22 hours of video-taped interviews with the suspect.
''My opinion is whatever he suffered from, it did not prevent him from forming the intent and knowing what he was doing and the consequences of what he was doing,'' Dr. Reid said, according to The Denver Post.
Holmes told the doctor that in 2011, he was battling mononucleosis which, along with a 2012 break up with his girlfriend, ultimately contributed to his recurring depression and lethargy. Then gunman also admitted that while he was planning the attack, he was hoping the FBI would stop him as he realized his suicidal thoughts had turned into homicidal urges.
''[That] suggests that [Holmes] knew that he was doing something wrong or was planning something wrong,'' Reid stated.
Earlier this week, the jury heard testimonies from Aurora police and FBI agents on the items found in Holmes's ''booby-trapped'' apartment, including a batman mask on display in his den and Holmes' personal journal filled with statements about his ''obsession to kill,'' detailed blueprints of the targeted movie theater and careful considerations on how to eliminate the most people.
Judge Carlos A. Samour has emphasized to the jury that the testimonies were to be considered in determining Holmes's level of sanity when he shot down the Batman movie theater.
According to Colorado state law, Holmes will have to prove that he was mentally diseased to the extent that he was incapable of comprehending right from wrong in order to be deemed not guilty by reason of insanity.
The defense has made claims that Holmes suffered from some form of schizophrenia. Dr. Reid however '-- while acknowledging Holmes does have a history of psychological disorders '-- is convinced that during the 2012 movie theater shooting, James Holmes was, in fact, sane.
The trial will continue with what is expected to be four days of testimony from James Holmes. Click here for live updates from the Colorado trial.
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Baltimore Sets A Record: 40 Murders In The Month Of May'...
Sun, 31 May 2015 03:53
Not so fast, the month isn't over.
Via FOX News
A man fatally shot in Baltimore is the city's 40th homicide victim this month, a record month for slayings.
Police say they were called about 8:45 p.m. Friday for reported gunshots. When they arrived, officers found a man shot in the underarm. Police spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Connolly said Saturday that 23-year-old Justin Mensuphu-Bey died about an hour later.
Arrests have dropped sharply in Baltimore since Freddie Gray died on April 19 of injuries he suffered in police custody. Gray's death unleashed protests, riots, and the criminal indictment of six officers.
Homicides were increasing in Baltimore even before Gray's death. But the 40 slayings in May mark a major spike, after 22 in April, 15 in March, 13 in February and 23 in January.
Afghan drug production grew 50-fold since US invasion
Sun, 31 May 2015 03:02
(C) AP Photo/ Abdul Khaliq
Illegal drug production in Afghanistan has increased by a factor of 50 and continues to rise since a US-led operation was launched in the country in 2001, the Russian Federal Drug Control Service (FDCS) chief said Thursday.The amount of land being used in opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan hit a record number of 224,000 hectares last year.
"The drug production in Afghanistan is the major problem for Eurasia and Central Asia, with its level increasing 50 times since the launch on October 7, 2001 of US operation Enduring Freedom and continues to rise," Victor Ivanov said.
According to Ivanov, leading world experts agree that the drug production in the country will continue to grow unless the international community takes active steps.
Afghanistan produces some 90 percent of the world's illicit opiates. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that in 2014 the drug production levels climbed 17 percent compared to the previous year.
Failed war on drugs: Doctors create more heroin addicts than street dealers
Thu, 28 May 2015 04:16
A recently released Drug Enforcement Administration report reveals not only that heroin use has exploded, but that 4 out of 5 new users have previously abused prescription drugs. The details of the analysis, titled the "National Heroin Threat Assessment," unwittingly demonstrate that the Drug War has failed to curb drug use and has actually exacerbated the problem.The report opens with an overview of heroin addiction:
"The threat posed by heroin in the United States is serious and has increased since 2007. Heroin is available in larger quantities, used by a larger number of people, and is causing an increasing number of overdose deaths."
The report acknowledges more specific data about heroin use. It explains that the strength of the drug has skyrocketed since the 1980s, increasing from 10% purity in 1981 to 40% in 1999. Due to this purity, the drug has become easier to snort and smoke, which broadens its appeal. Alternatively, the reformulation of Oxycontin in 2010 made the prescription opiate harder to inject, leading some pill addicts to turn to heroin for a drug they could use intravenously.Further, the report admits that for these reasons'--and a drop in price'-- "there is no longer a typical heroin user."Usage has spread across demographics including class, age and race. This is reflected in the fact that the number of people reporting heroin use nearly doubled, from 161,000 in 2007 to 289,000 in 2013. The number of arrests for heroin doubled from 2007 to 2014.
The drug trade itself has also grown more grim. The DEA reports that the influence of Mexican drug traffickers has broadened, overtaking Colombian influence and expanding toward the East coast. The amount of heroin trafficked at one time has more than doubled (the report makes no mention of questionable ties between the CIA and the Afghanistan opiate trade). Seven of 21 local DEA agencies named heroin as the number one threat in 2014. Six named it second.
In spite of the vast resources diverted to the Drug War, the flow, strength, and influence of drugs has increased. Perhaps most concerning is the DEA's own admission that of new heroin users, 80%'--4 out of 5'-- started using the drug after developing an addiction to legal, prescription painkillers:
"In the 2000s, a very large number of people became opioid abusers by using CPDs [controlled prescription drugs] non-medically, many after initially receiving legitimate prescriptions. Some CPD abusers throughout the country continue to use heroin when some CPDs are expensive or unavailable."
For decades, the FDA has approved countless painkillers in spite of the risks of addiction. In November, it even approved a painkiller that claimed to curb addiction while containing a potent dose of addictive hydrocodone. The DEA report lamented over 8,000 deaths due to heroin in 2013'--triple the number in 2010. It failed to acknowledge, however, that in 2010 22,134 people died from pharmaceutical overdoses'--60% of total overdose deaths that year. Painkillers are more lethal than heroin and cocaine combined, causing 46 deaths a day.The turn to heroin is partially exacerbated by the government's own attempts to curb the painkiller addiction it helped create. The report plainly admits that the unavailability of painkillers pushes users into heroin use to replace the opiate high.
In the decades that the federal government and DEA have waged the war on drugs, they have enjoyed free reign to spy on citizens, throw individuals in jail for cannabis (and other non-violent) crimes, and create the world's largest prison population. In all of this time'--according to its own report'--the agency has failed to curb the proliferation of drugs, the power of the cartels, or rates of addiction.
Though the heroin problem is severe, small efforts to combat it are slowly appearing. A police station in Gloucester, Massachusetts announced last month that it will offer treatment over arrest for addicts who turn themselves in. The state of California decriminalized all drug use with the passage of Proposition 47. While the infrastructure of the Drug War remains intact, these small gestures signal a shift in public perspective toward the War on Drugs and the desire for a non-violent approach to addiction.
Need more destruction: Pentagon's new multibillion dollar arms contracts with Israel and Saudi Arabia
Fri, 22 May 2015 21:48
(C) Reuters / Paul Hanna
The Pentagon has announced new multibillion dollar arms contracts with the regimes in Israel and Saudi Arabia, America's primary allies in the Middle East. Both are knee-deep in military conflicts destabilizing the region.The $1.9 billion deal with Israel implies supply of some 3,000 Hellfire precision missiles, 250 AIM-120C advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, 4,100 GBU-39 small diameter bombs and 50 BLU-113 bunker buster bombs. The order also includes 14,500 tail kits for Joint Direct Attack Munitions for 220kg and 900kg bombs and a variety of Paveway laser-guided bomb kits.
Israeli media sees the deal as "compensation" for the rapprochement between Iran and the US, which Washington sees as trying to get Tehran's nuclear program under control.
Tel Aviv has been sharply criticizing Washington for its decision to negotiate a nuclear deal with Tehran, and Israel has even ostentatiously "reserved the right" to conduct a unilateral air strike on Iran.
"The proposed sale of this equipment will provide Israel the ability to support its self-defense needs," the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said, adding that the new contract is meant to"replenish" Israel's arsenal without supplying the country with any kind of new weapons.
In November 2014 it was reported that Pentagon was going to supply Israel with 3,000 smart bombs, similar to those used by the Israeli Air Force in Gaza last summer, where an estimated 100 tons of munitions were dropped.
The main contractors to fulfill the lucrative Israeli arms deal will be Boeing, Ellwood National Forge, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Missile Systems, AFP reported.
As for Saudi Arabia, the world's largest buyer of American weapons, it wants to buy 10 Seahawk MH-60R helicopters along with radars, navigation systems and 38 Hellfire missiles.
(C) Reuters / Paolo BayasMH-60R Seahawk helicopter.
According to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, between 2010 and 2014 Riyadh spent $90 billion on American weapons, becoming world's leading buyer of US-made arms.The helicopters will be supplied by Sikorsky Aircraft Corp, while associated gear will be produced by Lockheed Martin.
The US administration must notify Congress 30 days ahead of the sale of weapons to a foreign government, as lawmakers have a right to block or amend any arms deal.
Both Israel and Saudi Arabia have been recently conducting offensive operations on the territory of their neighbors.During the 50-day campaign in Gaza last summer, where Israel actively used its Air Force, more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, the vast majority of them unarmed civilians.
Israel is also regularly targeting airstrikes on the territory of neighboring Syria.
(C) Reuters / Paul Hanna
Apart from multiple airstrikes against military installations controlled by the Syrian Army, Damascus has accused Israel of providing air support to armed terrorist groups in Syria.Saudi Arabia has initiated and led airstrikes on the territory of neighbor Yemen, where Houthi rebels have seized power and ousted a Riyadh-backed president.Since late March, when airstrikes were launched and a naval blockade of Yemen was imposed, at least 1,250 people have been killed and over 5,000 wounded in the conflict, according to the World Health Organization. Local estimates of casualties have been much higher.
2nd Half
The Charlie Charlie Challenge - what is the spooky craze?
Tue, 26 May 2015 17:40
A bizarre new craze is sweeping the internet - but what is this Ouija-board inspired game about?(C) The Telegraph, UKIf Charlie is there the pencils will move to indicate his answer.
A strange new game is taking over Twitter, fuelled by speculation that its players can connect with a dead Mexican spirit known as Charlie.The Charlie Charlie Challenge has been played by thousands of young people after a number of videos purported to show supernatural goings-on.
The game entails placing two pencils on a piece of paper in the shape of the cross with the words 'yes' and 'no'. Participants then repeat the phrase "Charlie, Charlie can we play?" in order to connect with the demon.
If Charlie is there the pencils will move to indicate his answer.One reddit user believes he has uncovered a full explanation of the game:
"The best explanation I have found is here.
You've probably heard of using a Ouija board to contact spirits, but I bet you haven't heard of using pencils to have your questions answered by supernatural beings! The Pencil Game, also called "Charlie, Charlie," is a traditional Mexican ritual wherein players (usually children) are said to contact the spirit of a child named Charlie.
To play The Pencil Game, you will need six pencils and a partner. Facing each other, each person must hold three pencils and arrange them as three sides of a box, with the open end facing the other person. It is best to use unsharpened pencils, or to hold the tips so that the eraser ends are pointed toward your partner. The ends of your pencils will need to touch your partner's to form a complete rectangle.
To begin the game, both players must chant: "Charlie, Charlie, can we play?" If the pencils move inward or up, the answer is yes. If they move outward or down, the answer is no. If one side goes one way and the other side goes a different way, it means maybe or the question can't be answered at this time. You can then ask the spirit of Charlie yes or no questions, and he will respond by moving the pencils. Charlie is kind of like the spirit world version of a Magic 8 ball. To end the game, both players must chant: "Charlie, Charlie, can we stop?" After the pencils move, both players drop all of the pencils on the floor to break contact with Charlie."
Needless to say the reaction to the craze has been mixed:If it all gets too creepy, here's how to "say goodbye" to Charlie:
Cultural Marxism
Porn actors must wear protective goggles during shoots: California safety standard - Boing Boing
Thu, 28 May 2015 06:21
California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health has issued a set of safety standards for all California porn production sets. The 21-page standards presentation (PDF) goes into graphic detail about the safety precautions that are to be undertaken when adult video actors perform various acts.
Here's one eye-opening detail from the document:
Personal Protective Equipment.1. Where occupational exposure remains after institution of engineering and work practice controls, the employer shall provide, at no cost to the employee, appropriate personal protective equipment such as, but not limited to, condoms, gloves for cleaning, and, if contact of the eyes with OPIM-STI is reasonably anticipated, eye protection. Personal protective equipment will be considered "appropriate" only if it prevents blood or OPIM'--STI* from passing through to or reaching the employee's eyes, mouth, or other mucous membranes, or non-intact skin under normal conditions of use and for the duration of time which the protective equipment will be used.
In the LA Daily News, Diane Duke, CEO of the Canoga Park-based Free Speech Coalition, said the proposed standards overshoots what is needed on porn sets:''These are regulations designed for medical settings, and are unworkable on an adult film set '-- or even a Hollywood film set,'' Duke said in a statement. Duke said her organization and several other groups would prefer to see the proposed regulation amended with input from both performers and public health officials, ''in ways that protect adult film performers without stigmatizing and shutting down an entire industry.''
* ''OPIM'--STI'' means pre-ejaculate, ejaculate, semen, vaginal secretions, fecal matter and rectal secretions, secretions from wounds or sores that are potentially infected with sexually transmitted pathogens, any other bodily fluid when visibly contaminated with blood or all bodily fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between bodily fluids.
Image: Shutterstock
VIDEO-WHIPLASH-NBC Continues Media Push Blaming Flooding in Texas, Drought in California on Climate Change | MRCTV
Sun, 31 May 2015 13:17
See more in the cross-post on the NewsBusters blog.
Continuing the media narrative that climate change is the cause of flooding in Texas, NBC Nightly News did its part on Thursday night in not only accomplishing that but also linking climate change to the drought in California and a ''weather whiplash'' that's being seen across the country.
Interim anchor Lester Holt began the segment by observing that ''[t]he relentless rain, while enormously destructive, seemed to have helped reverse years of drought in Texas'' while Californians now ''are wondering'' if it's their turn ''for an abrupt weather whiplash of their own from dry to deluge.''
VIDEO-Bill Nye Attacks Climate Change 'Deniers' On CNN Newsroom | MRCTV
Sun, 31 May 2015 13:11
On the May 29 edition of CNN Newsroom, Carol Costello brought on Bill Nye to lecture conservatives about the supposed importance of climate change. Prior to the interview Costello introduced Nye as someone who is ''ready to fight the haters,'' and resorted to the usual liberal talking point: ''Before we begin, I just want to say 97% of scientists say climate change is real and much of it is driven by man, so let's go on.''
VIDEO-MSNBC Host Tees Up Pelosi to Question Rubio's Catholic Faith | MRCTV
Sun, 31 May 2015 05:00
More in the cross-post on the MRC's NewsBusters blog.
Wrapping up a live interview with Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday's MSNBC Live, anchor Thomas Roberts invited the left-wing congressional leader to attack Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio: ''...we have the sound from the interview that Marco Rubio gave, where he painted a pretty broad brush in a characterization about those for and against marriage equality. Take a listen.''
A clip played of Rubio arguing: ''We are at the water's edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech. Because today we've reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater....the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech.''
VIDEO-CREEPY: New IBM program lets banks and retailers spy on your Social Media Activities
Sun, 31 May 2015 04:52
IBM CHICAGO | While the fight for your privacy rages on Capitol Hill IBM just unleashed a powerful new spy tool into the public sector.
IBM today announced 20 new industry-specific solutions with pre-built predictive analytics capabilities that will make it easier and faster for corporations to act.
Specifically designed for the banking, telecommunications, insurance and retail industries it taps into your social networking activities and predicts your next move.
The future is coming fast, and like the film Minority Report big banks and mega retailers will know your move before you ever think it.
Urban Outfitters, National Grid, Deloitte, Interactive Data Managed Solutions, and Adelaide Bank and more are Already on board with the new spy program.
No longer is the NSA alone in spying on you now IBM is leveraging your ''Behavioral analytics'' based on your Facebook and Twitter posts.
While at least the NSA has to pay lip service to the Constitution in brave new world corporations don't.
Should IBM be allowed to harvest your social online activities and hand them to corporations to predict your next move?
VIDEO-FCC Commissioner: Feds May Come for Drudge
Sun, 31 May 2015 04:16
( '' Federal Communications Commission (FCC) member Ajit Pai said over the weekend that he foresees a future in which federal regulators will seek to regulate websites based on political content, using the power of the FCC or Federal Elections Commission (FEC). He also revealed that his opposition to ''net neutrality'' regulations had resulted in personal harassment and threats to his family.
Speaking on a panel at the annual ''Right Online'' conference in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Pai told audience members, ''I can tell you it has not been an easy couple of months personally. My address has been publicly released. My wife's name, my kids' names, my kids' birthdays, my phone number, all kinds of threats [have come] online.''
Pai, one of two Republicans on the five-member FCC, has been an outspoken critic of net neutrality regulations passed by the agency on Feb. 26. The rules, which are set to take effect on June 12, reclassify Internet providers as utilities and command them not to block or ''throttle'' online traffic.
However, Pai said it was only the beginning. In the future, he said, ''I could easily see this migrating over to the direction of content'... What you're seeing now is an impulse not just to regulate the roads over which traffic goes, but the traffic itself.''
Continuing, he said, ''It is conceivable to me to see the government saying, 'We think the Drudge Report is having a disproportionate effect on our political discourse. He doesn't have to file anything with the FEC. The FCC doesn't have the ability to regulate anything he says, and we want to start tamping down on websites like that.'''
In February, Pai co-authored an editorial with former FEC Chairman Lee Goodman that warned of efforts by those agencies to regulate content online.
''Is it unthinkable that some government agency would say the marketplace of ideas is too fraught with dissonance? That everything from the Drudge Report to Fox News'... is playing unfairly in the online political speech sandbox? I don't think so,'' Pai said.
''The First Amendment means not just the cold parchment that's in the Constitution. It's an ongoing cultural commitment, and I sense that among a substantial number of Americans and a disturbing number of regulators here in Washington that online speech is [considered] a dangerous brave new world that needs to be regulated,'' he concluded.
'Billions and Billions' to Subsidize Internet Service
In comments to, Pai also talked about the FCC's finances, the imposition of taxes on Internet usage, and subsidies for Internet service.
The reclassification of Internet providers as utilities allows the FCC to impose what is known as a ''Universal Service Fund'' (USF) tax on their revenue. The USF has grown exponentially in recent years, and presently stands at $12 billion annually '' so large that the FCC has requested it be allowed to transfer $25 million of the money to its own budget to ''administer'' the fund. As a result, some in Congress have proposed limiting the size of the USF to $9 billion.
Pai did not specify where he believed the cap should stand, but he said the recent growth of the fund necessitated a limit going forward.
''I think it should be lower than what a majority of the FCC wants it to be'... Whatever it is, there has to be a cap. What we've found is that USF funding has exploded over the past couple of years so that the USF tax is 67 percent higher than it was in 2009,'' he said.
Pai said that proposals to expand certain programs funded by the USF could cost billions. ''We should stop making promises in terms of expanding the Lifeline program, expanding the E-Rate program that need to be paid for. Otherwise that $9 billion cap is going to be insufficient.''
Lifeline, commonly known as the ''Obama Phone'' program, subsidizes phone usage for low-income individuals. E-Rate subsidizes broadband access for schools and libraries.
Continuing, Pai said, ''Broadband service is a lot more expensive than phone service. Right now, the Lifeline phone subsidy is only $9.95. Imagine how expensive it's going to have to be to really subsidize people's broadband service.
''Secondly, people are a lot more interested in broadband than in traditional phone service these days. For those two reasons, I think the price could be exorbitant '' billions and billions of dollars,'' he said. also asked Pai to describe his position on the budget request submitted by the FCC to Congress this year.
''We should deny funding for some of the things the FCC wants to spend money on. Any funds, for example, to enforce these net neutrality regulations, [and] this shift of $25 million from the Universal Service Fund to the FCC itself in order to pursue its own policy priorities '' I think we need to do more with less. I don't think we're doing that by asking for a much higher budget,'' Pai said.
Pai concluded by saying the FCC was attempting to do less with more.
''If you look at how busy we actually are, we were much busier in 1996 in the wake of the '96 Telecomm Act. At that point, in today's dollars, we had a budget of $277 million. Now the FCC is asking for almost $400 million even though we're not as busy as we were then. I think it's safe to say we could do with what we've got now if not less,'' he said.
See Related Stories:
FCC Commissioner Speaks Out Against Federal Regulation of Internet (Jan. 21, 2015)
House Republicans Propose Capping FCC's Universal Service Fund (March 19, 2015)
VIDEO: The five stages of the awakening
Sun, 31 May 2015 03:34
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VIDEO-President Obama Meeting Attorney General Loretta | Video |
Sun, 31 May 2015 03:21
May 29, 2015Following a meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, President Obama called on the Senate to pass the USA FREEDOM Act.'‚The legislation would extend for an additional four years expiring PATRIOT Act provisions.
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People in this videoHosting OrganizationMore Videos FromWhite House EventsRelated VideoMay 30, 2015Weekly Presidential AddressPresident Obama delivered his weekly address.'‚He talked about provision's of the PATRIOT Act for the'...
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May 22, 2015White House Daily BriefingJosh Earnest responded to reporters' questions on a variety of issues, including the release of former Secretary of'...
May 16, 2015Weekly Presidential AddressPresident Obama delivered his weekly address.'‚He talked about expanding economic opportunities in areas such as'...
VIDEO-Weekly Address: Pass the USA Freedom Act | The White House
Sun, 31 May 2015 02:53
May 30, 2015 | 3:30 | Public Domain
In this week's address, the President addressed critical pieces of national security business that remained unfinished when the Senate left town. This Sunday at midnight, key tools used to protect against terrorist threats are set to expire.
Download mp4 (130MB) | mp3 (8MB)
VIDEO-The McLaughlin Group 5/29/15 - YouTube
Sat, 30 May 2015 22:17
VIDEO-USA FREEDOM ACT - Obama Urges Senate to Pass the USA Freedom Act Now - YouTube
Sat, 30 May 2015 21:58
VIDEO-Secret Meeting Being Held In London To Ban Cash | Neon Nettle
Sat, 30 May 2015 18:16
Posted by: Neon Nettle | on 29th May 2015 @ 12.33pm
Economist Martin Armstrong claims there is a ''secret meeting to end cash'' set to take place in London before the end of the month Economist Martin Armstrong claims there is a ''secret meeting to end cash'' set to take place in London before the end of the month involving representatives from the ECB and the Federal Reserve. via
Armstrong, who is known for successfully predicting the 1987 Black Monday crash as well as the 1998 Russian financial collapse, expressed his shock that no news outlet has reported on this upcoming conference.
''I find it extremely perplexing that I have been the only one to report of the secret meeting in London. Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University, and Willem Buiter, the Chief Economist at Citigroup, will address the central banks to advocate the elimination of all cash to bring to fruition the day when you cannot buy or sell anything without government approval,'' writes Armstrong.
''When I googled the issue to see who else has picked it up, to my surprise, Armstrong Economics comes up first. Others are quoting me, and I even find it spreading as far as the Central Bank of Nigeria, but I have yet to find any reports on the meeting taking place in London, when my sources are direct.''
Armstrong first brought attention to the alleged meeting earlier this month when he revealed that representatives from the Federal Reserve, the ECB as well as participants from the Swiss and Danish central banks would all be attending a ''major conference in London'' at which Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University, and Willem Buiter, the Chief Economist at Citigroup, would give presentations.
''We better keep one eye open at night for this birth of a cashless society that is coming in much faster than expected. Why the secret meeting? Something does not smell right here,'' concludes Armstrong.
Discussions and moves towards banning cash have repeatedly cropped up in recent weeks.
Willem Buiter, who Armstrong claims is speaking at the secret meeting, recently advocated abolishing cash altogether in order to ''solve the world's central banks' problem with negative interest rates.''
Last year, Kenneth Rogoff also called for ''abolishing physical currency'' in order to stop ''tax evasion and illegal activity'' as well as preventing people from withdrawing money when interest rates are close to zero.
Striking a similar tone, former Bank of England economist Jim Leaviss penned an article for the London Telegraph earlier this month in which he said a cashless society would only be achieved by ''forcing everyone to spend only by electronic means from an account held at a government-run bank,'' which would be, ''monitored, or even directly controlled by the government.''
Big banks in both the United Kingdom and the U.S. are already treating the withdrawal or depositing of moderately large amounts of cash as a suspicious activity. Reports emerged in March of how the Justice Department is ordering bank employees to consider calling the cops on customers who withdraw $5,000 dollars or more.
Meanwhile in France, new measures are set to come into force in September which will restrict French citizens from making cash payments over '‚¬1,000 euros. Armstrong suggests that ''financial police'' could enforce this new law by, ''searching people on trains just passing through France to see if they are transporting cash, which they will now seize.''
As Armstrong notes, banning cash in order to eviscerate what little economic freedoms people have left to avoid disastrous Keynesian central bank policy is nothing short of economic totalitarianism.
''In the mind of an economic tyrant, banning cash represents the holy grail,'' writes Michael Krieger. ''Forcing the plebs onto a system of digital fiat currency transactions offers total control via a seamless tracking of all transactions in the economy, and the ability to block payments if an uppity citizen dares get out of line.''
Photo Credit: press
VIDEO NEEDED-Obama: 'Heaven Forbid' a Terrorist Attack Happens After Senate Inaction on Patriot Act |
Sat, 30 May 2015 18:15
President Barack Obama sounded the alarm about what could happen if there is a delay in renewing the USA Patriot Act.
''I don't want us to be in a situation in which, for a certain period of time, those authorities go away and suddenly we are dark, and heaven forbid, we've got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity but we didn't do so simply because of inaction in the Senate,'' Obama told reporters Friday after meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the White House.
President Barack Obama (R) speaks following a meeting with US Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the Oval Office of the White House on May 29, 2015, in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
The USA Patriot Act, a post-9/11 law, is set to expire Sunday at midnight. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, tried to get the law renewed, as well as get passage of the USA Freedom Act, intended to address concerns about the National Security Agency bulk data gathering.
However, Paul, speaking for 10 hours on the Senate floor last Friday, blocked either bill from coming to a vote in the Senate.
''So I have indicated to Leader McConnell and other senators, I expect them to take action and take action swiftly,'' Obama continued. ''That's what the American people deserve. This is not an issue in which we have to choose between security and civil liberties. This is an issue in which we in fact have struck the right balance.''
VIDEO-Multiple planes hit with lasers while flying over Long Island: FAA | New York's PIX11 / WPIX-TV
Sat, 30 May 2015 18:14
FARMINGDALE, Long Island (PIX11) '-- At least five flights traveling over Long Island Thursday night were hit by lasers, according to federal officials.
A green laser illuminated the aircraft while they flew 8,000 feet about 4 miles northwest of Farmingdale, a spokesman for the FAA said Friday. The incidents occurred between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.
The affected flights are: American 185, Shuttle America 4213, Delta 2292 and Delta 2634, the FAA said. At least two of those flights '-- American 185 and Delta 2292 '-- originated at John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to the airlines' online flight trackers.
Within the next two hours, another flight '-- Sun Country Airlines 249 '-- was also hit with a green laser about 11:30 p.m. as it traveled 14 miles southwest of JFK Airport, the FAA said.
New York State Police have been notified and an investigation is underway.
No injuries were reported, though it is extremely dangerous to point a laser at an aircraft, particularly green lasers which are more easily seen than red lasers. Shining a laser into the cockpit of a plane is a federal crime, according to FAA.
''These lasers can temporarily blind a pilot and make it impossible to safely land the aircraft, jeopardizing the safety of the passengers and people on the ground,'' then-FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a 2011 news release announcing harsher penalties against those who point lasers at planes.
Also on Friday, a plane traveling from Virginia to LaGuardia Airport had a close call with a drone flying near Brooklyn's Prospect Park, the FAA said.
VIDEO-Deniers go berserk on 'Science Guy' | MSNBC
Sat, 30 May 2015 18:01
Ireland, the GOP & marriage equality
Ireland's vote to legalize same-sex marriage puts focus on how America's GOP presidential candidates will handle that shift. Jerri Ann Henry, the Campaign Manager for Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, Nick Confessore, and Caitlin Huey...
The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell
Duration: 8:18
VIDEO: EU Brexit 'sets dangerous precedent'
Fri, 29 May 2015 18:21
One of Germany's top businessmen says Europe should not negotiate with David Cameron over his desire to change Britain's relationship with the EU as it could "set a dangerous precedent".
Volker Treier, who is the deputy chief executive of Germany's chamber of commerce and industry, was speaking on the eve of the British prime ministers first meeting with Angela Merkel since his new government formally confirmed it will hold a referendum on EU membership.
Dr Volker Treier told the BBC there should be no negotiations with Britain while it is threatening a Brexit.
VIDEO-SEC STATE OFFER-Hillary Clinton At South Carolina Hillary Promises Her Hair Won't 'Turn White in the White House' - YouTube
Fri, 29 May 2015 18:03
VIDEO-The President Delivers the United States Coast Guard Academy Commencement Address - YouTube
Thu, 28 May 2015 15:18
By the way Synonyms, By the way Antonyms |
Sun, 31 May 2015 05:31
way O.E. weg "road, path, course of travel," from P.Gmc. *wegaz (cf. O.S., Du. weg, O.N. vegr, O.Fris. wei, O.H.G. weg, Ger. Weg, Goth. wigs "way"), from PIE *wegh- "to move" (see weigh). Most of the extended senses developed in M.E. Adj. meaning "very, extremely" is early 1980s, perhaps from phrase all the way. Wayfaring is O.E. wegfarende; Ways and means "resources at a person's disposal" is attested from c.1430. Way-out (adj.) "original, bold," is jazz slang, first recorded 1940s.
VIDEO-Beau Biden, son of VP Biden, dies at 46 -
Sun, 31 May 2015 05:25
Story highlightsBeau Biden battled brain cancerHe is the second child of Vice President Joe Biden to dieBeau Biden was 46He died after battling brain cancer, according to the vice president's office.
"Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known," his father wrote in a statement.
Biden had suffered known health problems dating back to 2010, when he experienced a stroke that did not affect his motor skills or speech.
In 2013, Beau Biden was treated at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston after he became disoriented and weak while on vacation. He was diagnosed with brain cancer, and after undergoing surgery was given a clean bill of health.
The cancer returned this spring and Biden pursued aggressive treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, the vice president's office said. He died Saturday evening, surrounded by his extended family.
Aside from Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden, Beau Biden is survived by his wife, Hallie; two children, Natalie and Hunter; a brother, also named Hunter; and a half-sister, Ashley.
He survived wreck that claimed mother, sisterThroughout his 2010 and 2013 health episodes, Beau Biden continued serving as Delaware's attorney general, a position to which he was first elected in 2006. A Democrat like his father, he served for two terms, and announced in 2014 he wouldn't seek another four years in office as he prepared a run for governor.
Beau Biden is the second of Joe Biden's children to precede their father in death; the vice president's 1-year-old daughter Naomi was killed in a Christmastime car accident in 1972. The crash also took the life of Joe Biden's first wife, Neilia, who was Beau's mother.
Beau Biden was 2 years old when his mother was killed in the crash. He and his younger brother Hunter were injured but survived the accident, which occurred when a truck careened into the car the family was riding in.
Joe Biden was sworn in as senator at his sons' hospital bedside a few weeks later, and according to the 1988 political biography "What It Takes," by Richard Ben Cramer, the first-term lawmaker threw himself headlong into single parenthood.
"Joe was the parent. Period. No confusion," Cramer wrote. "Joe didn't want anybody else raising his kids, thanks. He was there every night, every weekend. They had stories at bedtime, games of catch on the lawn, outings, trips, places to go."
Beau and Hunter encouraged their father to remarry, and in 1977 Jill Jacobs, now Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, became their stepmother.
"My mom came along -- I have two moms now -- who came along in 1977 and rebuilt our family, and helped my dad rebuild our family," Beau Biden told CNN in 2012. "She's an incredible mother."
Beau Biden grew up in Delaware and graduated from the same Catholic high school as his father. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania and attended law school at Syracuse University.
A prosecutor and a politicianAfter serving as a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office in Philadelphia for nine years, and briefly working in private practice, Biden won his first election for attorney general in 2006 by 13,000 votes. When he was re-elected in 2010, Beau Biden increased his winning margin to 149,000 votes over his Republican competitor.
During his time in office, Biden took aggressive tactics to tamp down on child sex crimes perpetrators, netting 180 convictions. He also went after banks and mortgage lenders for their roles in perpetrating crooked loans.
A captain in the Delaware Army National Guard, Beau Biden was deployed to Iraq for a year in 2008, serving in an administrative post with the 261st Signal Brigade.
As a campaign surrogate when Joe Biden was selected as Barack Obama's running mate, Beau Biden acted as a fierce partisan, criticizing Republican opponents for lacking what he said was his father's tell-it-like-it-is honesty. His 2012 speech at the Democratic National Convention brought his father to tears.
And while Beau Biden chose to pursue the same field as his father -- from whom he inherited a square jaw and folksy patter -- he claimed in 2010 the pair didn't regularly talk politics.
"Most of the drama doesn't come to our dinner table. We talk about what my kids are doing -- his grandkids -- my brother's three kids, my sister, we talk about the family," he told CNN. "Most of the time it's not about politics."
Beau Biden is the first child of a sitting president or vice president to die since Patrick Bouvier Kennedy passed away two days after his birth in 1963.
On Saturday, Vice President Biden said in his statement, "More than his professional accomplishments, Beau measured himself as a husband, father, son and brother. His absolute honor made him a role model for our family. Beau embodied my father's saying that a parent knows success when his child turns out better than he did."
President Obama, writing in a statement, quoted Irish poet William Butler Yeats -- a favorite of the vice president's -- in honoring Beau Biden's life.
Yeats wrote, "I have believed the best of every man. And find that to believe it is enough to make a bad man show him at his best or even a good man swing his lantern higher."
"Beau Biden believed the best of us all," Obama said. "For him, and for his family, we swing our lanterns higher."
Privacy concerns over facial recognition test program - CBS News
Sun, 31 May 2015 04:29
WASHINGTON -- The Department of Homeland Security is making a new push to find immigration violators.
For the next three months, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents will test facial recognition technology, but CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave says the trial has some people worried that anonymity could become a thing of the past.
The new technology is being used to help identify foreigners who stay in the United States too long.
"We do see people trying to use the legitimate document, but it belonging to someone else, to conceal their identity," Customs and Border Protection Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Wagner said, "and we are vulnerable to that."
"CBS This Morning" was given rare access to a demonstration of the technology at Washington Dulles International Airport. The technology compares photos in passports with the faces of the people presenting them and rates how likely they are to be a real match.
If another person's passport is presented, the computer catches it in seconds, alerting the officer to investigate further.
The three-month pilot project at Dulles is part of larger testing of biometric technology. This fall, customs agents will begin collecting face and iris scans of people entering and returning from Mexico on foot from a San Diego border crossing.
"Looking at things like iris or facial recognition helps us compare that person to the document and confirm their identity" to check against watch lists, Wagner said.
But privacy rights advocates are concerned these test projects could lead to a slippery slope with law enforcement agencies eventually trying to using biometrics to track law abiding citizens.
"This is really just the beginning," warned Harley Geiger, Senior Counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology.
"The real concern is not so much this particular pilot program, it is that this particular pilot program is a step towards a larger program," Geiger said. "Not just in ports of entry, but also in public places, mass transit systems throughout the domestic United States."
The customs agency says about 250 people per day have their pictures compared using the technology at Dulles, including Jeffrey Fazio, who was returning from the Dominican Republic.
"Makes travel a little more cumbersome, but if it's keeping us safe then it's worthwhile," Fazio said.
Customs says it's taken close to 4,000 pictures of travelers at Dulles. Those images are being saved in a secure database that is not shared.
When the pilot project is complete, they will be deleted. A new privacy policy would need to be developed if the technology is put into widespread use. But, officials say you are already require to present proof of your identity when you enter the country, the technology is simply helping to confirm that information.
(C) 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Clips & Documents

Agenda 21
Bill Nye Attacks Climate Change 'Deniers' On CNN Newsroom.mp3
Climate Change Stretching Variability.mp3
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NBC-Weather Whiplash-.mp3
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McLaughlin prediction.mp3
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JCD Clips
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deorgia stooge moved to Ukraine.mp3
economic rundown by News Hour.mp3
how to pronounce carnegie ARCHIVE.mp3
lindsey graham demands an answer and changes premise.mp3
piven on rokker.mp3
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woo hoo yeah EVERGREEN.mp3
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CBS-Rose-Privacy concerns over facial recognition test program.mp3
Oabam & Lynch-1-Heaven forbid-USA Freedom Act.mp3
Oabam & Lynch-2-Thanks You shut up slaves.mp3
Obama podcast-USA FREEDOM Act.mp3
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