Mac and Cheese Destroyed a Toronto Neighborhood | MUNCHIES
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 15:10
On Sunday, residents of the quiet Toronto neighborhood of Liberty Village woke up to an apocalyptic scene. Piles of trash were strewn about, with a unsettlingly cheddary smell to the air.
''It was just like a bomb went off,'' one witness told local news outlet CP24.
But Liberty Village wasn't looted, nor was it the site of an attack by some paramilitary dairymen. Instead, it was struck by Canadians' savage, insatiable craving for pasta and cheese.
The problem started on Friday, when the neighborhood hosted Canada's very first Mac and Cheese Festival. Organizers expected around 5,000 attendees. But by the festival's end, about 46,000 had showed up.
The event brought together 23 chefs from across the city to pit their best mac and cheese dishes against one another, to be judged by the public, for a grand prize of $5,000.
Mac and cheese festival in Toronto. Looks like a blast. pic.twitter.com/GZrEmyd0Zt
'-- EvilMario (@JALinTO) June 8, 2015
Apparently, the public was more than willing to do so. According to some reports, garbage, vomit, and the half-eaten remains of a cheesy fest gone awry littered the streets and sidewalks Sunday morning. An ostensibly friendly festival had quickly devolved into an unhinged bacchanalia of carbs and cheddar.
Only hours before, thousands had gathered to taste mac and cheese poutine, mac-stuffed spring rolls, mac and cheese made with udon, and a gut-bomb take on Frito pie filled to the brim with noodles. One restaurant, Junked Food Co., even served a sweet blueberry cheesecake ice cream with Jolly Rancher mac and cinnamon toast crumble.
For this, visitors reportedly waited for hours on end to gorge themselves on their beloved mac from the two dozen vendors, several of whom quickly ran out of food when the mob of Torontonians descended upon them.
Festival organizer Philip Suos blamed a lack of support staff for the debacle. ''It was unfortunate. We had a few staff that weren't able to show up and what not so we were left scrambling as to who would be available for cleanup,'' he told CP24. Suos told the Toronto Star that some volunteers were ''scared off'' by the sheer mass of ravenous mac and cheese fans and called in sick.
He apologized for the mess, but stood by his belief that the festival was an overwhelming success, noting that ''next year is going to be bigger and better.'' Local media, however, was quick to label the mac attack a disaster. ''Mac and JEEZ!: Festival leaves Liberty Village filthy'' read the headline in the Bayview News. Commenters on the Toronto Star compared the debacle to last year's Grilled Cheese Festival fiasco, which was grossly oversold and left many prospective attendees out in the February cold.
The #TOGrilledCheeseFest is a massive train wreck. Huge lines. Under resourced, way oversold. pic.twitter.com/nELoj92oD1
'-- Kate Hudson (@k88hudson) March 1, 2014
You simply cannot trust Torontonians and their raging hunger for cheese. God help them.
Belgium Commemorates Waterloo With a Coin, and France Is Not Pleased - NYTimes.com
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 15:07
PhotoThe newly minted Belgian 2.50 euro coin that commemorates the Battle of Waterloo.Credit Emmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse '-- Getty ImagesLONDON '-- Perhaps befitting a battle that ended French hegemony in Europe, Paris, it seems, has been outflanked once again.
After it objected to a decision in March by Belgium to introduce a new 2 euro coin to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, the Belgians retreated, scrapping 180,000 coins they had already minted.
But victory for France is proving elusive.
This week, Belgium decided to circumvent French resistance by invoking a little-known European Union rule that allows countries to issue euro coins of their choice, provided they are in an irregular denomination.
That led to the unveiling of a '¬2.50 coin '-- a first in Belgium '-- and 70,000 of them have now been minted. The coins, which can only be spent inside Belgium, display a monument of a lion atop a cone-shaped hill on the site of France's humiliation, as well as lines indicating where troops were positioned when forces led by Britain and Prussia defeated Napoleon in the countryside near Brussels.
Continue reading the main storyVideoBelgium Unveils New 2.50 Euro CoinJohan Van Overtveldt, the Belgian finance minister, spoke on Monday about the minting '-- even after France's opposition '-- of a new 2.50 coin that commemorates the Battle of Waterloo.
By Reuters on Publish Date June 9, 2015.Photo by Olivier Hoslet/European Pressphoto Agency.Johan Van Overtveldt, the Belgian finance minister, insisted on Monday that the new coins were not meant to provoke Gallic anger.
''The goal is not to revive old quarrels in a modern Europe '-- and there are more important things to sort out,'' he was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse. ''But there's been no battle in recent history as important as Waterloo, or indeed one that captures the imagination in the same way.''
There is no doubt that the European Union has bigger struggles to wage at the moment. But in its small way, the skirmish has signaled the challenges facing European integration, and the limits of Europe's open borders at overcoming old nationalist impulses.
Tensions among the 19 countries that use the euro have mounted as Greece teeters perilously close to defaulting on its debt.
Yet history has its own currency in Europe, which even a common currency has yet to overcome. Back in March, officials in Paris wrote a letter to the European authorities insisting that the Battle of Waterloo, which took place on June 18, 1815, and altered the shape of European history, had a deep and damaging resonance in the collective French consciousness.
France protested Belgium's plans for its original coin by saying that basking in France's defeat threatened to undermine European unity, troubled enough already. The '¬2 coin, it said, could spur an ''unfavorable reaction in France.'' In Belgium, the victory embodied in the '¬2.50 coin is being lauded as if the tiny country had itself triumphed on the battlefield.
''Belgium creativity at its best!'' Jean-Yves Jault, the Brussels-based head of corporate communications for Toyota Europe, boasted on Twitter.
Nevertheless, the move has inspired no little annoyance in France. An article on the website of Bfmtv, the French broadcaster, noted that 200 years later, the defeat of Napoleon was ''still hard to swallow.''
The article asked whether France was a ''poor loser,'' even as it stressed that the '¬2.50 coin would not be legal tender outside of Belgium, where it is to be sold in plastic bags at a cost of '¬6.
In Britain, where the 19th-century poet laureate Robert Southey called the Battle of Waterloo ''the greatest deliverance that civilized society has experienced'' since Charles Martel repelled an Islamic conquest of Europe in 732, the new '¬2.50 coin aroused similar adulation.
''Well done Belgium beat the French at their own game of finding ways around EU rules, the English should take note!!'' Michael Dunn, from Stratford-upon-Avon, wrote on Twitter.
Others were less impressed. On Facebook, Manuel Di Pietrantonio suggested that the value of the dispute was about '¬2.50.
Hannah Olivennes contributed reporting.
A version of this article appears in print on June 10, 2015, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: With Guile, Belgium Finds Way to Issue Waterloo Coin .
MH370 Search Is 'Goose Chase' and Will Be 'Abandoned': Emirates Boss
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 15:02
Joe Skipper | Reuters
Tim Clark, President and CEO of Emirates Airlines speaks at the 2015 International Air Transport Association Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit in Miami Beach, June 8, 2015.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared on March 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
More from NBC NewsAirlines want to put your carry-on bags on a dietUnited Express plane skids off runway after landing in Buffalo,NYTSA fails to ID 73 airport employees with links to terrorism
"Do we have solutions? Do we have explanations? Cause? Reasons? No," said Clark, whose airline is the world's biggest operator of Boeing 777s'--the same type that vanished in March 2014. "It has sent us down a goose chase. It will be an Amelia Earhart repetition."
Earhart vanished in 1937 while attempting a solo round-the-world flight and her aircraft has never been found.
Read MoreMalaysia Airlines CEO says carrier is 'technically bankrupt'
A joint investigation by Australia and Malaysia, helped by other international experts, has so far concluded from satellite data that the jet probably changed course and headed south for several hours before running out of fuel. Experts have identified a 46,000 square mile search zone where they believe the plane likely entered the water'--an area about the size of Pennsylvania. However, only 19,000 square miles have been searched so far.
Read MoreBeacon battery on Malaysia Air MH370 data recorder expired: interim report
Authorities have not put a time limit on the operation, but have warned that they will not expand the search if the wreckage is not found inside the current zone.
GOOGLE SEZ LEAP SEC IS CLIMATE CHANGE-As world preps for 'leap second' on June 30, Google says it's ready | Fox News
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 14:54
File photo - Visitors at the Musee d'Orsay are seen in silhouette as they take pictures from behind a giant clock face April 8, 2015. (REUTERS/John Schults)
Search giant Google says that its systems are ready for the 'leap second' that the world will experience on June 30, 2015.
Described as a sort of tiny leap year, a leap second lets the earth's rotation catch up with atomic time, according to the Times of India.
June's will be the 26th recorded leap second, and the third since Google was founded in 1998. ''By convention, leap seconds happen at the end of either June or December,'' the search giant explained in a blog post. ''However, unlike leap years, leap seconds do not happen at regular intervals, because the Earth's rotation speed varies irregularly in response to climatic and geological events.''
The Telegraph reports that software companies are bracing themselves for leap second glitches, citing a number of crashes when one last occurred in 2012, as well problems with the Linux operating system and Java programs.
Google, however, says that it has a clever way of handling leap seconds. ''Instead of repeating a second, we 'smear' away the extra second,'' it explained, in its blog post.
During a 20-hour ''smear window'' centered on the leap second, the tech titan slightly slows all of its servers' system clocks. ''At the end of the smear window, the entire leap second has been added, and we are back in sync with civil time,'' it added.
WTF?-South Korea Cuts Key Rate to Record Low While MERS Spreads - Bloomberg Business
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 14:52
The Bank of Korea lowered its key interest rate to an unprecedented low as it warned that the spread of Middle East respiratory syndrome poses an imminent threat to consumption.
The central bank cut the seven-day repurchase rate to 1.5 percent on Thursday, the fourth reduction since August 2014. The decision was forecast by 11 out of 18 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The rest had expected no change.
The MERS outbreak has killed nine South Koreans and put more than 3,000 in quarantine, threatening to damp recent improvement in consumer sentiment in an economy that's under pressure from a slump in exports. It's the second straight year that policy makers have had to confront a blow to confidence and spending from unexpected quarters after a ferry-sinking disaster in 2014.
''The cut aims to ease negative impact from MERS and prevent consumer sentiment and production from freezing up,'' said Chang Jae Chul, a Seoul-based economist at Citigroup Inc. ''The BOK is trying to be more pre-emptive in taking action this time than it was after the Sewol ferry accident last year.''
President Park Geun Hye postponed a U.S. trip to oversee her government's handling of the outbreak. She has urged her cabinet to prepare ''all preemptive measures'' to minimize the impact of MERS on the economy.
The finance ministry said in a monthly economic report that it will closely monitor the effects of MERS on consumption and service industries, and will respond if needed. The weakness in exports is delaying a recovery in production and investment, according to the report.
'Imminent Risk'Central Bank Governor Lee Ju Yeol said the rate cut was a pre-emptive move designed to reduce the economic fallout from MERS.
''While household debt has been a long-lasting issue that's curbed consumption, MERS emerged recently as an imminent risk,'' Lee said at a briefing.
Taking the key rate lower, which could further fuel the buildup of household debt, was opposed by one member of the policy board, he said.
MERS is now the biggest variable to Korea's economic outlook, according to Lee, who flagged the possibility of a reduction in the BOK's 2015 GDP forecast of 3.1 percent when the next update is made in July.
Other risks cited by Lee and lawmakers include the timing of U.S. interest-rate hikes, an export slump and the harm caused to Korea by the strength of the won versus currencies such as the yen and the euro.
Currency MarketsThe won strengthened 11 percent against the yen in the past 12 months and traded at 9.01 as of 12:32 p.m. on Thursday. The currency gained 9.8 percent versus the euro and weakened 8.3 percent against the dollar during the same period, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Overseas shipments fell 10.9 percent in May from a year earlier, the fifth straight drop and the steepest in almost six years. Business lobbies have expressed discomfort over the won's strength against the yen and its impact on the nation's competitiveness.
The MERS outbreak comes at a bad time because confidence isn't yet strong enough to sustain an economic recovery, said Morgan Stanley economists Sharon Lam and Sung Woen Kang. Negative media coverage can take a toll on consumer sentiment, as it did following the sinking of the Sewol ferry last year, they wrote in a report this week.
JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. were among banks that changed their forecasts to a rate cut by July in the past couple of weeks, having earlier predicted the BOK would keep policy steady for the rest of the year.
Police go door-to-door looking for two escaped prisoners in upstate New York | Mashable - YouTube
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 14:32
Health Care Lawsuits - Constitutionality Corner blog
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 13:59
By Hadley Heath
The Bridge to Better Health Care project today released two new infographics that illustrate the impact of a ruling for the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell:
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By Hadley Heath
Top Republican legislators are pondering how to respond should the Supreme Court rule that the federal ObamaCare subsidies are illegal in 37 states (the states that didn't establish their own health insurance exchanges). Remember, these subsidies trigger the individual and employer mandates in those states, meaning this ruling could significantly impact the way ObamaCare works. Here are a few Republican proposals for how to respond in this scenario:
Sen. Ben Sasse was perhaps the first to introduce his plan, "A First Step Out of ObamaCare." Here's what he would do for the transition:
...I will introduce legislation that uses the 1985 ''Cobra'' law as a temporary model to protect those harmed by ObamaCare. Cobra offers workers who have lost their jobs the option to keep their health coverage for 18 months'--so Congress should offer individuals losing insurance the ability to keep the coverage they picked, with financial assistance, for 18 transitional months. This would simultaneously avert the full-scale implementation of ObamaCare in these 37 suddenly desperate states. It would also help protect suffering patients entangled in the court's decision to strike down illegal subsidy payments.
Second, Republicans need to unify around a specific set of constructive, longer-term solutions, and then turn the 2016 presidential election into a referendum on two competing visions of health care. Simply opposing ObamaCare isn't enough. Republicans must address this country's health-care crises'--cost and uninsurance'--both of which have been exacerbated chiefly by excessive federal meddling.
Reps. Paul Ryan, John Kline, and Fred Upton have also introduced their "Off-Ramp From ObamaCare." Here's an excerpt:
First, make coverage more affordable. Any state that uses our off-ramp would be able to opt out of ObamaCare's insurance mandates. These coverage requirements are driving up costs, so eliminating them would empower individuals and families to choose from a wider range of plans that fit their personal needs and budgets. Our proposal will also allow participating states to opt out of ObamaCare's burdensome individual and employer mandates, allowing Americans to purchase the coverage they want'...
Second, help people buy coverage. Right now, those who get insurance through their employer get a lot of help from the tax code, while some people who buy insurance on their own, including potentially the millions of Americans the IRS put at risk, get no help at all. So we would offer those in the affected states a tax credit to buy insurance.
And Sen. Ron Johnson has a plan too, which he detailed in his article, "A Make-or-Break ObamaCare Moment." Here's what he suggests:
The first goal of a Republican strategic response must be to prevent President Obama's cynical use of the coming crisis from working. If Republicans wait, we will have no chance of countering Mr. Obama's response. We must be ready to come swiftly to the aid of those who will be victimized once again by ObamaCare if the court rules against the administration. Republicans must come together now, agree on a legislative solution, and take that solution to the American public immediately.
Second, our legislation must give America another ''bite at the apple'''--one last chance to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with patient-centered, market-based health-care reforms. We must set up the 2016 presidential election as a contest between health-care decisions made by Washington politicians and bureaucrats and reforms that put patients back in charge.
And finally, just today Sen. Bill Cassidy announced that he too would suggest a plan. The Hill reports: "Cassidy's plan, which would let states opt out of ObamaCare mandates and instead receive tax credits for health savings accounts, would work in tandem with the GOP's more immediate response in case the court rules against ObamaCare." He will release more details on his plan after Memorial Day.
There are some obvious similarities to all the GOP proposals: Don't allow those who lose subsidies to suffer because of ObamaCare's illegal IRS rule, and provide a way for the nation to move forward to better health care laws in the future.
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By Hadley Heath
Today the American Action Forum released a new study that shows the potential economic impact of King v. Burwell. If the Supreme Court rules that the IRS acted illegally in dispursing federal subsidies to states that did not establish their own health insurance exchanges, here's what would happen:
7.7 Million Individuals to Lose Health Insurance Subsidy
$3,156 Average Annual Subsidy Impacted Individuals will Lose
11.1 Million Individuals Freed from Individual Mandate
$1,200 Average Annual Penalty Impacted Individuals will be Freed From
262,000 Business Establishments Freed from Employer Mandate
237,000 New Jobs
1,270,000 Workers Added to the Labor Force
$830 to $940 Increase in Pay Per Worker
$13.6 Billion Increase in Total Pay
3,300,000 Part-time Workers Who May Gain Hours
Check out the full study here for more information.
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By Hadley Heath
Below is the text of my just-published essay for the Constituting America project. My piece explains why the U.S. House is suing the Obama Administration over some of the administrative changes made to ObamaCare:
Articles 1, 2 and 3 of the Constitution describe the roles of the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches of the federal government. It's clear that Congress is to make the laws, the administration to enforce the laws, and the courts to interpret the laws. Although this doctrine of Separation of Powers sounds simple, it's not. The administrative branch holds great power to promulgate regulations and make executive decisions (orders and actions) that wield the force of law, and today, many fear that this power is being abused.
The Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, is the ultimate recent example. The text of this comprehensive health reform law occupies between 2,000 and 3,000 pages of paper, depending on font size. The regulations promulgated pursuant to this Act would require 20,000 pages of paper. This is largely because the language of the law itself delegates many determinations to the Department of Health and Human Services. It seems Congress makes the law, but the Administration makes the rules.
But with regard to ObamaCare, the Administration has gone far beyond offering regulatory guidance that adds clarity or specificity to the law. On many occasions, administrative agencies have made changes to the law, some of which may not stand up to constitutional scrutiny in light of the Separation of Powers.
According to the Galen Institute, the executive branch has altered the implementation of ObamaCare 30 times. A few of these actions have elicited a legal response from government watchdogs, taxpayers, and Congress. These lawsuits are examples of our system of checks and balances at work.
In one of these cases, U.S. House v. Burwell, one of the three branches (the judiciary) ironically will have to decide whether the constitutional lines that separate the powers of the other two (Congress and the President) will remain relevant.
Many of the administrative changes to ObamaCare have been implementation delays, including the enforcement of the employer mandate. In short, this mandate requires employers of 50 or more workers to provide health insurance or pay a penalty. ObamaCare says clearly, in the relevant Section 1513(d), ''the amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013.'' But twice the Administration has acted unilaterally to change this enforcement date.
This is at the heart of the lawsuit filed by the U.S. House of Representatives against the Department of Health and Humans Services and Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Department of the Treasury and Secretary Jack Lew. The delay of the employer mandate is one claim in the suit, which also points to unconstitutional ''offset'' payments that the federal government has been making to insurance companies without Congressional appropriation. The House voted to file this lawsuit against executive overreach under the leadership of Speaker John Boehner.
In this case, the legislative branch is alleging that it has been injured by the unconstitutional actions of the defendants, which usurp the House's constitutional authority to make legislation and to appropriate public funds. Although it is unprecedented for the U.S. House '' as a body '' to file suit against the executive branch, the plaintiff describes the actions of President Obama as extremely troubling and deserving of a response. They write in their complaint:
''The Administration has made no secret of its willingness, notwithstanding Article I of the Constitution, to act without Congress when Congress declines to enact laws that the Administration desires. Not only is there no license for the Administration to ''go it alone'' in our system, but such unilateral action is directly barred by Article I. Despite such fundamental constitutional limitations, the Administration repeatedly has abused its power by using executive action as a substitute for legislation.''
As the Supreme Court wrote recently in a different case, Burrage v. United States, ''The role of this Court is to apply the statute as it is written '' even if we think some other approach might 'accord with good policy.''' Replacing a few key words, the same could be said of the role of the executive branch, which is to enforce the statute as it is written, regardless of what administration officials believe to be the best policy. To change a policy, they should seek a legislative change from Congress (and accept Congress's authority when it chooses not to enact such a change).
Abraham Lincoln said, ''The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.'' Enforcing the law is the purview of the executive branch. But in the case of ObamaCare or the Affordable Care Act, the administration is loathe to enforce the law strictly as it was written, because doing so might make the law even less popular than it has been during the last five years. That's the heart of the issue here.
Even so, it is not the prerogative of the executive branch to pick and choose among the sections and clauses of the laws, to selectively implement laws on its own timeline. This sets a bad precedent in favor of political expediency. But those who would put more and greater power in the executive branch should be warned: What one president does by executive order, the next president might undo the same way.
This was not the way our system was meant to work: Separated powers and a system of checks and balances are meant to ensure that our government follows the rule of law, not the rule of man by fiat. This Separation of Powers may keep the three branches from superseding each other, but this design is ultimately in place for the protection of the people. A divided government is a limited one, and a limited government allows for maximum individual freedom and human flourishing.
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By Hadley Heath
Today the Supreme Court announced that it will not hear Coons v. Lew, a case that was first filed in August 2010 against ObamaCare's Independent Payment Advisory Board or IPAB. This board is tasked with reducing Medicare's costs, and wields incredible power. The Goldwater Institute, the group that is managing the litigation of the suit, explains that the case is about Separation of Powers, and that IPAB is "an unconstitutional consolidation of government power in an unelected, unaccountable executive agency."
The Court, by refusing to take up the case, is allowing a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to stand. The Ninth Circuit decided to throw the case out because plaintiffs had not shown any harm that they'd suffered as a result of IPAB.
Like many parts of ObamaCare, the implementation of IPAB has been delayed and changed via executive action. No one has been appointed to serve on the board, which was supposed to be put together in 2014. There have also been (unsuccessful) Congressonal attempts to repeal the IPAB.
IPAB, as designed by the Affordable Care Act, is supposed to be a 15-member board of appointees who serve 6-year terms. If Medicare spending increases by a certain amount, the IPAB is tasked with proposing cuts to the program. The IPAB proposal becomes law automatically, unless a supermajority in both houses of Congress acts to stop the IPAB cuts and replace them with cuts of an equal or greater amount. You can read more about the IPAB here.
Plaintiffs, and the Goldwater Institute, responded today by pointing out that their case isn't dead, it's simply "in a holding pattern" until someone experiences real harm because of IPAB (which has yet to be implemented). When someone is harmed, they can pick up their case and try again.
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blog.reddit -- what's new on reddit: Promote ideas, protect people
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 13:09
TL;DR: We are unhappy with harassing behavior on reddit; we have survey data that show our users are, too. So we've improved our practices to better curb harassment of individuals on reddit.
Running a community-based site is complicated; running a site with 9,000 active communities in a changing world is even more complicated. For the past six months we have been examining and reviewing reddit's community policies and practices, collecting and analyzing data, defining our own goals, and making some hard decisions.
Last week, we announced our internal company values, and we were proud to say: We value privacy, freedom of expression, open discussion, and humanity, and we want to make sure that we uphold these principles for all kinds of people. We didn't announce them because we'd accomplished them, rather because we are striving for them.
Today, we're making another change that we believe will help make reddit a better place for everyone.
We have been looking closely at the conversations on reddit and at personal safety. We've always encouraged freedom of expression by having a mostly hands-off approach to content shared on our site. Volunteer moderators determine and uphold rules for content in their subreddits, and we have stepped in when we see threats to our values of privacy and safety.
In the past 10 years we've seen how these policies have fostered cool and amazing conversations on reddit. We've seen new types of conversations as AMAs and /r/askscience and /r/askhistorians developed. We've seen more and more organic content as part of conversations after the introduction of self-posts. We've also seen the scope and scale of discussions explode.
Unfortunately, not all the changes on reddit have been positive. We've seen many conversations devolve into attacks against individuals. We share redditors' frustration with these interactions. We are also seeing more harassment and different types of harassment as people's use of the Internet and the information available on the Internet evolve over time. For example, some users are harassing people across platforms and posting links on reddit to private information on other sites.
Instead of promoting free expression of ideas, we are seeing our open policies stifling free expression; people avoid participating for fear of their personal and family safety. Last month, we conducted a survey of over 15,000 redditors'--these are people who are part of the reddit community'--that showed negative responses to comments have made people uncomfortable contributing or even recommending reddit to others. The number one reason redditors do not recommend the site'--even though they use it themselves'--is because they want to avoid exposing friends to hate and offensive content.
One of our basic rules is ''Keep everyone safe''. Being safe from threat enables people to express very personal views and experiences'--and to help inform and change other people's views:
Because of this, we are changing our practices to prohibit attacks and harassment of individuals through reddit with the goal of preventing them. We define harassment as:
Systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone in a way that would make a reasonable person (1) conclude that reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas or participate in the conversation, or (2) fear for their safety or the safety of those around them.
If you are being harassed, report the private message, post or comment and user by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or modmailing us; include external links if they are relevant.
This change will have no immediately noticeable impact on more than 99.99% of our users. It is specifically designed to prevent attacks against people, not ideas. It is our challenge to balance free expression of ideas with privacy and safety as we seek to maintain and improve the quality and range of discourse on reddit.
We are committed to evolving with our communities and the Internet to keep reddit a place where every day more voices are participating in free expression of all ideas. We also value your feedback as members of the community and welcome suggestions in the comments on how we can do this even better.
'' Jessica (/u/5days), Ellen (/u/ekjp), Alexis (/u/kn0thing) & the rest of team reddit
Worries grow as climate talks leave issues unaddressed - Yahoo News UK
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 06:05
Negotiators on Wednesday tiptoed through a problem-laden draft for a UN climate pact amid deepening concern over a December deadline to seal the deal.
Just one day is left in a key round of talks intended to propel 195 countries towards an historic accord in Paris just over six months from now.
But after 10 days' haggling, observers said almost nothing has been done to demine a text stuffed with political explosives.
"There has been too much time spent fiddling around with the unimportant details of the text," Christian Aid's Mohamed Adow said.
"Negotiators have acted like schoolchildren colouring in their homework timetable and not getting around to any actual homework."
The goal is a post-2020 agreement that will reduce the threat of climate change for future generations.
It would limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, fending off crippling droughts, floods, storms and rising seas.
But the draft agreement, sprawling over nearly 90 pages, reflects the position of every single country, with many views in direct contradiction to others.
The Bonn meeting has focused on maintaining consensus, by surgically removing duplicated text or finding laborious compromise on some of the less contentious wording.
The tough decisions will ultimately be made by ministers and heads of state, as negotiators have no mandate to make political concessions.
But without a manageable text to give their bosses, deadlock could result, as was notoriously the case at the 2009 Copenhagen summit -- the last time UN members tried to forge a climate treaty.
"We are gravely concerned about the progress of the negotiations and would like to express our utmost disillusionment on the mistrust reigning in the corridors," said Mithika Mwenda of the campaign group Pan African Climate Justice Alliance.
"We challenge the parties to effectively utilise the remaining few hours to agree on something concrete that will illuminate some hope to millions of people waiting for signals that this will cease to be an endless game of musical chairs."
The potential time bombs in the text are many.
One of the biggest is how to encourage countries to crank up their pledges of carbon cuts, and monitor that they honour their promises.
"Ambition is ultimately a question of political will, but the Paris agreement must have strong design features to help drive it up over time," said Tony de Brum, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, which supports a five-yearly review.
Also in dispute are basic questions such as the agreement's long-term goal and financial help for developing countries.
- Loss and damage -
Still undetermined, too, is a mechanism to compensate poor countries for damage incurred due to unavoidable man-made global warming.
"The overwhelming level of harm being felt in developing countries comes from emissions in developed countries, so there is an issue of responsibility there," said Gita Parihar of Friends of the Earth.
Measures could include a compensation fund and relocation of climate refugees.
But these issues can only be determined in head-to-head bartering.
"Negotiators are in danger of wasting their last hours, avoiding real progress on the substance of the Paris climate deal," Adow said.
"It's time to put the colouring pens away and really get down to work. They must create a clear list of options which can be worked out by ministers before the next (negotiating) session in Bonn in August."
List of CEOs and politicians invited to 2015 Bilderberg Conference in Austria
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 06:04
Jun. 10, 2015, 8:13 AM5,111REUTERS/Miro KuzmanovicA view of Hotel Suvretta, the venue of the Bilderberg Club annual meeting according to local medias, in St. Moritz, June 9, 2011.
A select group of global elite will gather in Telfs-Buchen, Austria, on Thursday for a super secret annual conference where they can discuss politics, foreign policy, and economics freely.
The Bilderberg Conference has been running since 1954 and according to its barebone website was "designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America."
Attendees hold "informal discussions to help create a better understanding of the complex forces and major trends affecting Western nations."
Topics for discussion this year include artificial intelligence, cyber security, Greece, Iran, and the US elections.
But it will be almost impossible to find out what is said on these topics as Bilderberg is closed to journalists. Because of this, conspiracy theorists believe it is where the global elite plot how to rule the world.
What we do know, however, is who will be attending. Some notable names include Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, LinkedIn Cofounder Reid Hoffman, and British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
Here's the full list:
Henri de Castries, AXA Group, Chairman and CEOPaul M.Achleitner, Deutsche Bank, Chairman of the Supervisory BoardMarcus Agius, PA Consulting Group, Non-Executive ChairmanThomas Ahrenkiel, Danish Intelligence Service (DDIS), DirectorJohn R. Allen, US Department of State, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISILRoger C. Altman, Evercore, Executive ChairmanAnne Applebaum, Legatum Institute, Director of Transitions ForumMatti Apunen, Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA, DirectorZo Baird, Markle Foundation, CEO and PresidentEd Balls, Labour Party, Former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Francisco Pinto Balsem£o, Impresa SGPS, ChairmanJos(C) M. Barroso, European Commission, Former PresidentNicolas Baverez, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Partner, Ren(C) Benko, Founder, SIGNA HoldingFranco Bernab¨, FB Group, ChairmanBen van Beurden, Royal Dutch Shell, CEOLaurent Bigorgne, Institut Montaigne, DirectorLaurence Boone, French government, Special Adviser on Financial and Economic Affairs to the PresidentAna Botn, Banco Santander, ChairmanRichard Svein Brandtz...g, Norsk Hydro, President and CEOOscar Bronner, Standard Verlagsgesellschaft, PublisherWilliam Burns, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, PresidentPatrick Calvar, DGSI, Director GeneralHenri de Castries, Bilderberg Meetings, Chairman; AXA Group, Chairman and CEOJuan Luis Cebrin, Grupo PRISA, Executive ChairmanEdmund Clark, TD Bank Group, Retired ExecutiveBeno®t Coeur(C), European Central Bank, Member of the Executive BoardAndrew Coyne, National Post (Canada), Editor, Editorials and CommentMikael L. Damberg, Swedish government, Minister for Enterprise and InnovationKarel De Gucht, Belgian government, Former EU Trade Commissioner, State MinisterThomas E. Donilon, Former U.S. National Security Advisor; O'Melveny & Myers, Partner and Vice ChairMathias D¶pfner, Axel Springer, CEOAnn Dowling, Royal Academy of Engineering, PresidentRegina Dugan, Google, Vice President for Engineering, Advanced Technology and ProjectsTrine Eilertsen, Aftenposten, Political Editor,Merete Eldrup, TV 2 Danmark A/S, CEOJohn Elkann, EXOR, Chairman and CEO; Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, ChairmanThomas Enders, Airbus Group, CEOMary Erdoes, JP Morgan Asset Management, CEORona Fairhead, BBC Trust, ChairmanUlrik Federspiel, Haldor Tops¸e, Executive Vice PresidentMartin S. Feldstein, NBER President Emeritus; Harvard University, Professor of EconomicsNiall Ferguson, Harvard University, Professor of History, Gunzberg Center for European StudiesHeinz Fischer, Austrian government, Federal PresidentDouglas Flint, HSBC, Group ChairmanChristoph Franz, F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Chairman of the BoardLouise O. Fresco, Wageningen University and Research Centre, President and Chairman Executive BoardKenneth Griffin, Citadel Investment, Founder and CEOLilli Gruber, ''Otto e mezzo'', La7 TV, Executive Editor and AnchorSergei Guriev, Sciences Po, Professor of EconomicsG¶nen§ G¼rkaynak, ELIG Law Firm (Turkey), Managing PartnerAlfred Gusenbauer, Former Chancellor of the Republic of AustriaVictor Halberstadt, Leiden University, Professor of EconomicsErich Hampel, UniCredit Bank Austria, ChairmanDemis Hassabis, Google DeepMind, Vice President of EngineeringWolfgang Hesoun, Siemens Austria, CEOPhilipp Hildebrand, BlackRock, Vice ChairmanReid Hoffman, LinkedIn, Co-Founder and Executive ChairmanWolfgang Ischinger, Munich Security Conference, Chairman, Jacobs Kenneth, Lazard, Chairman and CEOJulia J¤kel, Gruner + Jahr, CEOJames A. Johnson, Johnson Capital Partners, ChairmanAlain Jupp(C), Mayor of Bordeaux, Former Prime MinisterJoe Kaeser, Siemens AG, President and CEOAlex Karp, Palantir Technologies, CEOGilles Kepel, Sciences Po, University ProfessorJohn Kerr, Scottish Power, Deputy ChairmanIlhan Kesici, Turkish Parliament, MPHenry Kissinger, Kissinger Associates, ChairmanKlaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa, Chairman and CEOKlaas Knot, De Nederlandsche Bank, PresidentMustafa Ko§, Ko§ Holding, ChairmanHenry Kravis, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Co-Chairman and Co-CEOMarie-Jos(C)e Kravis, Hudson Institute, Senior Fellow and Vice ChairAndr(C) Kudelski, Kudelski Group, Chairman and CEOKurt Lauk, Globe Capital Partners, PresidentCarola Lemne, The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, CEOStuart Levey, HSBC, Chief Legal OfficerUrsula von der Leyen, German government, Minister of DefenceThomas Leysen, KBC Group, Chairman of the Board of DirectorsShiraz Maher, King's College London, Senior Research Fellow, ICSRChristina Markus Lassen, Danish government, Head of Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Security Policy and Stabilisation DNKJessica Mathews, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Distinguished FellowJames Mattis, Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University USAPierre Maudet, Vice-President of the State Council, Department of Security, Police and the Economy of Geneva CHEDavid I. McKay, President and CEO, Royal Bank of Canada CANNuray Mert, Columnist, Professor of Political Science, Istanbul University TURJim Messina, CEO, The Messina Group USACharles Michel, Prime Minister BELJohn Micklethwait, Editor-in-Chief, Bloomberg LP USAZanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief, The Economist GBRMario Monti, Senator-for-life; President, Bocconi University ITALeena M¶rttinen, Executive Director, The Finnish Family Firms Association FINCraig Mundie, J. Principal, Mundie & Associates USAHeather Munroe-Blum, Chairperson, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board CANPrincess Beatrix of the NetherlandsMichael O'Leary, CEO, Ryanair Plc IRLGeorge Osborne, First Secretary of State and Chancellor of the Exchequer GBRSoli zel, Columnist, Haberturk Newspaper; Senior Lecturer, Kadir Has University TURDimitri Papalexopoulos, Group CEO, Titan Cement Co. GRCCatherine P(C)gard, President, Public Establishment of the Palace, Museum and National Estate of Versailles FRARichard Perle, N. Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute USADavid H. Petraeus, Chairman, KKR Global Institute USAPanagiotis Pikrammenos, Honorary President of The Hellenic Council of State GRCHeather Reisman, M. Chair and CEO, Indigo Books & Music Inc. CANGianfelice Rocca, Chairman, Techint Group ITAGerhard Roiss, CEO, OMV Austria AUTRobert E. Rubin, Co Chair, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Secretary of the Treasury USAMark Rutte, Prime Minister NLDKarim Sadjadpour, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace USAPedro Snchez P(C)rez-Castej"n, Leader, Partido Socialista Obrero Espa±ol PSOE ESPJohn Sawers, Chairman and Partner, Macro Advisory Partners GBRSelin Sayek B¶ke, Vice President, Republican People's Party TUREric E. Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google Inc. USARudolf Scholten, CEO, Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AG AUTJean-Dominique Senard, CEO, Michelin Group FRAKarl Sevelda, CEO, Raiffeisen Bank International AG AUTJensStoltenberg, Secretary General, NATO INTAlexanderStubb, Minister of Finance FINKatrinSuder, Deputy Minister of Defense DEUPeter D.Sutherland, UN Special Representative; Chairman, Goldman Sachs International IRLCarl-HenricSvanberg, Chairman, BP plc; Chairman, AB Volvo SWEOlaugSvarva, CEO, The Government Pension Fund Norway NORPeter A.Thiel, President, Thiel Capital USALoukasTsoukalis, President, Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy GRCAhmet'z¼mc¼, Director-General, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons INTAnt"nio M.Vitorino, Partner, Cuetrecasas, Concalves Pereira, RL PRTJacob Wallenberg, Chairman, Investor AB SWEVin Partner Weber, Mercury LLC USAMartin H.Wolf, Chief Economics Commentator, The Financial Times GBRJames D.Wolfensohn, Chairman and CEO, Wolfensohn and Company USARobert B.Zoellick, Chairman, Board of International Advisors, The Goldman Sachs Group USA
Sott Exclusive: Where's my cookie?! Anti-government protests in Ukraine ignored by US and EU
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 06:03
(C) RTLarge anti-government protests took place in Kiev this week
The third Ukraine 'Maidan' came quickly, and was quenched just as fast. Unlike the protests that began in late 2013 and turned into the months-long 'EuroMaidan' that ended with the coup against the legitimate government of Yanukovych, this time, there were no entrenched cadres of hardened protestors in camps, no pitched battles with police, no occupation of government buildings. Why not?Almost immediately on the heels of the Gay Rights parade that fizzled out on Friday with a spectacular whimper after being attacked by neo-Nazi Right Sector thugs (the same ones Kiev has been dutifully utilizing in their 'anti-anti-terrorist operation' in the east), similar brain dead fascist drones did the same thing to the massive anti-government march in Kiev this weekend.
The thousands of protesters that marched to and camped out on Maidan Square were airing their grievances against the so-called government of greedy, inept, bloodthirsty leaders. That is, protestors were attempting to engage with the full spirit of that new-found Ukrainian-American democracy that was gifted to them last year by way of the US-sponsored coup. You know, protesting against things like poverty, criminally low pensions, and a useless, costly, ineffective war in the east. Some protesters were calling for Poroshenko's impeachment, saying the government can't handle the country's current problems.
But apparently their grievances are not so grievous, mainly because they don't jive with the 'strategic interests' of the US government, unlike the previous Maidan protests of last year that had the god fatherly blessings of the glorious United States, complete with Nuland cookies, Right Sector barbarism, and provocateur snipers. The spoils of that little Maidan went to Poroshenko. This little Maidan may as well have stayed home. All they got was the privilege of going wee, wee, wee all the way to prison. Now, if Poroshenko were to have a brain transplant and suddenly say something remotely favorable about Putin, THAT would be a different story. In that case, the beneficent flow of cookies, arms, and support would no doubt come freely, along with a US government demand that Poroshenko "had to go".
But that's not how things went down. Instead, a group of about a hundred of those ubiquitous 'young men in masks' (the better to cover their Swastika-tattooed faces, one would venture to guess) attacked the tents of the protesters early Monday morning, destroying the camp and beating the protesters.
Ukraine's security forces dutifully showed up to rain democratic justice upon the masked attackers, but were regrettably unable to capture them. Instead, they decided to do the next-best-democratic thing: arrest some protesters, including Ruslan Tashbaev, a U.S.-nationalized Ukrainian, on accusations of being Kremlin trolls sent to cause unrest against a saintly government that can do no harm. Because the only possible reason for being remotely upset with the Ukrainian government is because you are a Donetsk or Lugansk "terrorist" personally trained by Vladimir Putin... Everyone knows that.
But Tashbaev is anything but a Putin fan. He's apparently more Russophobic than Poroshenko, whom Tashbaev believes isn't doing enough to beat those dastardly Russians posing as miners from the east. Which makes the following events even more ironic:
However, the story had an unexpected twist - Tashbaev came online today saying that he was not deported. He was detained by the police, passed to the custody of unknown masked men, and taken to the forest - to be beaten, tortured, and probably killed. It is unknown why they dumped him in the forest instead - maybe because Tashbaev's lawyers started asking head of State Security about his whereabouts (Nalivaychenko answered that he is detained and giving evidence about his ties to terrorist organizations), or maybe they hoped he would not be able to make it out of the forest in his state. Anyway, Tashbaev made it out. Here are the photos he posted of himself - taken after he walked two hours to the nearest residential area.
He flew out of Ukraine some hours later and underwent medical evaluation in a US hospital. He vowsthose responsible will be brought to justice. PS. Wanna bet if any mass media outlets run stories on this? The same exact thing has been going on for a year, and nothing so far...Maybe it'll turn out he "beat himself up to blame police", just like 40 protesters in Odessa "burned themselves to slander innocent patriots".
Ah! Now THIS is what I'm talking about: good ol' fashioned American-Ukrainian democracy! John McCain would be proud. As for the face of this strange brand of democracy, here it is:Ukraine should be proud. It has almost - just almost - achieved the model of the ideal American democracy, complete with crippling, suicidal debt, no economic or foreign policy to speak of, the torture and murder of civilians, brazen lies, insane rhetoric, and brutal psychopathy. Glory to Ukraine, indeed.Harrison Koehli
Harrison Koehli hails from Edmonton, Alberta. A graduate of studies in music performance, Harrison is also an editor for Red Pill Press and has been interviewed on several North American radio shows in recognition of his contributions to advancing the study of ponerology. In addition to music and books, Harrison enjoys tobacco and bacon (often at the same time) and dislikes cell phones, vegetables, and fascists.
Notice -- Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Belarus
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 06:01
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 10, 2015
- - - - - - -
CONTINUATION OF THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH RESPECT TO
THE ACTIONS AND POLICIES OF CERTAIN MEMBERS OF
THE GOVERNMENT OF BELARUS AND OTHER PERSONS TO UNDERMINE
BELARUS'S DEMOCRATIC PROCESSES OR INSTITUTIONS
On June 16, 2006, by Executive Order 13405, the President declared a national emergency pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Belarus and other persons to undermine Belarus's democratic processes or institutions, manifested in the fundamentally undemocratic March 2006 elections, to commit human rights abuses related to political repression, including detentions and disappearances, and to engage in public corruption, including by diverting or misusing Belarusian public assets or by misusing public authority.
The actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Belarus and other persons continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For this reason, the national emergency declared on June 16, 2006, and the measures adopted on that date to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond June 16, 2015. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13405.
This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.
Has a derivatives bomb just gone off?
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 06:00
I've never seen so many sophisticated Wall Street'ers this scared in my entire career.
This comment comes from a very well-connected Wall Street/DC insider and is in reference to how illiquid the bond markets have become.Something deep and dark has transpired behind the Orwellian "curtain" used by the elitists to hide the inner workings of the financial markets, especially with regard to big bank balance sheets and OTC derivatives. What's happening right now reminds of the movie "Jurassic Park." You can hear and feel the monster coming but you can't see it yet and you don't know it will pop up in your face or how big it is.
It was the sudden firing of Deutche Bank's co-CEOs this past weekend - The Brown Stuff Is About To Hit The Fan - that prompted me to spend more time analyzing a sequence of events which indicate to me some sort of derivatives position, possibly at Deutsche Bank, has exploded. In addition, the stock and bond markets have been emitting some curious signals which reflect that fact that something happened in the global economic and financial system.
Let's look at some charts first (click on any chart to enlarge). The first graph below shows a 1-yr plot Dow Jones Transportation Average vs. the S&P 500:
As you can see, the DJ Transports and the S&P 500 were tightly correlated until the end of April 2015. The Transports hit an all-time high on October 25, 2014, which is about when the Fed formally ended its QE program. The DJT began to under-perform the S&P 500 at the end of April. Since then it began to diverge quite negatively from the S&P 500. The DJ Transports are largely made up of trucking, railroad and delivery services stocks. This sector of the market reflects the heart-beat of economic activity, especially as it relates to consumer spending in the United States. The Transports are down 9.4% from its all-time high. I wrote about the collapsing U.S. economy a week ago: LINK The behavior of the Dow Jones Transports is the market's confirmation that the U.S. economy is contracting.A collapsing global economic system will exert an unanticipated and extreme amount of stress on highly leveraged financial systems. This stress is "magnified" by the enormous amount of derivatives which are connected to the disastrous amount of global debt.
An even more curious chart is the relationship between the yield on the 10yr Treasury bond and the DJ Transports:
As you can see, the yield on the 10yr Treasury bond has been trending higher since the beginning of February while the DJ Transports has been trending lower. Notice a problem? In a "clean" market - i.e. a market free from Central Bank and Government interventions, interest rates and the DJ Transports should be positively correlated. If the economy is contracting, as reflected by the direction in the DJ Transports, the yield on the 10yr Treasury should be declining - not rising. You can see that when the DJ Transports ran up to an all-time high, the 10yr yield spiked up, reflecting the markets perception that the U.S. economy might be strengthening.It does not make sense that the 10-yr Treasury yield is moving higher - quite rapidly - while the DJ Transports are tanking - quite rapidly. In the first week of June, the yield on the 10yr Treasury bond spiked up from 2.09 to 2.40, a 14.8% move. This is a big move for yields in just 5 trading days, especially in the context of a rapidly weakening economy. Worst case, 10yr yields should have remained flat.
I believe the illogical movement in 10yr Treasury yields reflects the fact the Fed is losing control of its tight grip on the bond market and longer term interest rates. Note that German bunds have also experienced a similar spike up in interest rates and volatility. In the context of my view that there was a derivatives accident somewhere in the global banking system in the last two weeks, it could well have been an OTC interest rate swap bomb that detonated.
As of the latest OCC quarterly report on bank derivatives activity (Q4 2014), JP Morgan held $63.7 trillion notional amount of derivatives, $40 trillion of which were various interest rate derivatives. If you look at the ratio of interest rate derivatives to total holdings for the top 4 U.S. banks, they all own roughly same proportion of interest rate derivatives as percent of total holdings. Deutsche Bank is reported to have about a $73 trillion derivatives book. If we assume that ratio of interest rate derivatives is likely similar to JP Morgan's, it means that DB's potential derivatives exposure to interest rates is around $46 trillion. I will elaborate on this below.
But first, one more graph related to interest rates:
This graph shows the price of the 10yr Treasury bond futures contract going back to May 2014. Interestingly, the price of the 10yr moved abruptly higher after the Fed ended QE. This is the opposite of what many of us would have expected. It wasn't until early February that 10yr bond price began to decline (yields move higher). As you can see on the right side of the graph above, the 10yr bond price plunged below the blue uptrend line. The 10yr bond price also crashed through its 200 day moving average - an ominous technical signal. Both of these events happened within the last week.Again, I believe that this action in the bond market is pointing to the fact that the Fed is losing control of the markets. I also believe that the catalyst for this loss of control is a big derivatives accident of some sort in the last two weeks.
Another clear indication that something has melted down "behind the scenes" recently is an ominous market call by self-made hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, founder and CEO of Elliott Management. In his latest letter to investors, released the last week of May, he stated that the best trade in a generation is to short "long term claims on paper money."
A savvy investor like Paul Singer would not make a public market call like that unless 1) he had already positioned his fund accordingly 2) he had some sort of insight about what was happening "behind the scenes" either first-hand or from insiders who were in a position to give him information and 3) he was 99% certain that his insight and information was correct. In other words, it highly likely Singer had already made huge position bets for his fund and his own money which would capitalize on a systemic disruption of some sort (Elliott Management was one of the hedge funds with which I dealt when I traded junk bonds in the 1990's. I knew them to be methodical and always looking for inside information).
Finally, I believe that whatever type of financial explosion occurred is related to the sudden firing of Deutsche Bank's co-CEOs, Anshu Jain and Jurgen Fitschen. Fitschen is the equivalent of corporate executive abortion. He's under investigation for tax evasion and on trial for giving false testimony in a long-running legal battle related to the collapse of the Kirch media conglomerate (one of Germany's biggest media empires. It's incredulous to me that he wasn't fired a long time ago. It tells us just how recklessly this bank is managed by the Board of Directors. It also suggests a grand failure by German bank regulators.
It's the firing of Jain that caught my interest. In a management shake-up a little over two weeks ago, Jain was given more power by the Board and shareholders. So why was Jain suddenly and unexpectedly fired less than three weeks after having been given more control over the bank?
As I wrote yesterday, Jain's raison d'etre was to build Deutsche Bank into the world's largest derivatives dealer. On May 26, it was announced that Deutsche Bank had reached a settlement with the SEC for improperly valuing its its risk exposure to its Leveraged Super Senior trades book of business (credit derivatives). This in and of itself was not the cause of the Bank's reversal on Jain. But I can guarantee that this is just the tip of the iceberg with regard to fraud and risk exposure connected to Deutsche Bank's derivatives business under Jain's stewardship. We found out in 2008 that bank CEOs and CFOs not only lie to each other and their employees, they also lie to regulators.
I referenced Deutsche Bank above in connection to big bank interest rate derivatives exposure. I believe that the high volatility in the global fixed income markets has triggered some kind of derivatives blow-up at Deutsche Bank. While the smoking gun points to some kind of interest rate-related derivatives melt-down, it could also have been related to Greece sovereign debt credit default swaps or energy-related derivatives.
While I'm fairly certain that all the evidence points to Deutsche Bank as the source of what I believe is a derivatives accident that has occurred in the last two weeks, don't forget that the majority of banks and hedge funds globally are linked directly or indirectly through the "magic" of OTC derivatives and counter-party default risk. We saw this "natural" law of derivatives risk in action in 2008 and recently when a small German bank blew up from its exposure to an Austrian bank which choked to death of Greece-connected credit default swaps.
There's other signals which I didn't cover, like the fact that the S&P 500 is has dropped 2.5% in the last 10 trading days since hitting an all-time high May 21. In addition, the US dollar index has plunged 170 basis points in the last six trading days. This is a huge move for a currency in such a short time period. Having said that, regardless of which bank and what "flavor" of derivative may have blown up, I believe that something big and hidden melted down in global financial system during the last two weeks.
This could be the start of the big financial markets inferno that many of us have been expecting for quite some time.
My best advice for anyone who wants to protect themselves financially is to get as much money OUT of the system as you can. It's up to you whether or not you convert your cash into physical gold and silver, but I think at this point only an idiot would leave his money in the system and denominated in paper dollars.
John Kerry Stages Recovery Photo With Unsecured Landline Phone?
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 05:57
From the administration that not so long ago was noted for spending so much time controlling every aspect of its media relations we see yet another more recent and seemingly indifferent example of their attempt to calm the growing questions regarding John Kerry's status after he disappeared from public view following what was reported as a biking accident in the French Alps.
Kerry is seen here in a photo trying to show he is both working and recuperating. He appears to be talking into what would be an ''open'' hospital landline which if so, means there is mostly likely no-one on the other end of that line making the photo-op a particularly clumsy attempt to lessen the interest in Kerry's sudden disappearance. There appears to be no sign of a cast even though the administration has indicated the Secretary of State broke his femur. If reports of that injury are true it would indicate the use of a metal rod and/or screws to secure the femoral fracture which is considered major surgery often requiring considerable rehabilitation.
The administration indicated Secretary Kerry is still conducting official business while in the hospital, namely speaking to foreign leaders about the threat of climate change.
No joke '' that's the topic the administration chose to use to express how Mr. Kerry is still very much ''working hard'' for America.
Interestingly, this is the second Obama Secretary of State in a row to suddenly disappear from public view for extended periods of time. The exact same thing happened with Hillary Clinton in 2012 when it was reported she suffered a concussion after fainting. She later was said to have received treatment for a brain clot.
To date the White House has given no official indication of when Mr. Kerry will be back at work pretending to talk to somebody on an unsecured phone line'...
NGO Alternative Treaties - 23 Alternative Non-Governmental Agreement on Climate Change, Earth Summit, June 1992
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 05:12
previous | table of contents | next23Alternative Non-Governmental Agreement on Climate Change
Preamble1.Realizing the grave threats to global environment posed by the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere such as sea level rise, droughts, desertification, impoverishment of biological diversity and other consequences of changes in the world climatic patterns threatening the sustainability of life on this planet2.Acknowledging the build up of carbon dioxide (CO½) and other greenhouse gases that cause climatic change is a consequence of current development and consumption patterns that encourage excessive use of non-renewable fuels and inappropriate land-use patterns3.Recognizing that industrial development is characterized by social injustice as well as inequitable and inappropriate consumption patterns both at the national and international level; that the industrialized countries have exploited and consumed the greater share of the world's fossil fuels, forests and other resources, which has allowed them to attain the technological capacity to address the questions at hand, they should therefore shoulder the greatest responsibility for averting social and environmental crises4.Affirming that, although the major responsibility to avoid the negative effects of climate change lies on developed countries, both developed and developing societies must be mobilized to the important tasks addressed in this document5.Considering the "Agenda Ya Wananchi -- Citizen's Action Plan for the 1990s" adopted at the International Non-Government Organization (NGO) Conference "Roots of the Future", held in Paris, December 19916.Therefore, citizens representing NGOs and social movements from around the globe gathered at the International NGO Forum "Commitments for the Future", held in Rio de Janeiro, June 1992, have adopted the following principles and commitments as a basis for future actions:Objective7.The objective of this convention is to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.Principles8.The earth with its diverse forms is a functioning whole. Ecological integrity must be maintained; this includes the reduction of social and cultural vulnerability and the preservation of biological diversity.9.The real issue of the social and environmental crisis is not one of protecting the environment per se, but of managing resources to attain sustainable social, economic and physical development of human societies; this includes achieving equity with respect to gender, religion and race at all levels of human organization, self-reliance, respect for biological and cultural diversity, participatory democracy, cultural and political integrity, and access to education and information, leading to active cooperation among all peoples.10.This issue has to be tackled by altering excessive consumption patterns as well as through the acknowledgement of citizens' rights to economic and social improvement; the satisfaction of basic needs, material and non-material must be guaranteed and fulfilled for present and future generations.11.Citizens, enterprises and governments must work together to protect the global climate system on the basis of their common but differentiated capabilities and responsibilities for sustaining life on earth.12.Strategies and action plans to reverse human induced climate change must be developed and implemented on the basis of the precautionary principle; the lack of consensus on scientific conclusions cannot be used as justification for inaction.13.Efforts to address climate change must insure realignment of over-all resource flows from the North to the South and involve NGOs at all stages; these flows must be governed equitably and have adequate procedures of public accountability and transparency.14.All human beings should have equal access to a total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that the atmosphere can bear on a sustainable basis.Commitment And ActionsRegarding climate change and its impacts, we commit ourselves to work actively in our countries:15.With other NGOs, alliances and social movements, to:a .Act in solidarity, sharing information and supporting an open-ended network of local, national and international groups dealing directly or indirectly with climate issues; this network should be a tool for building up citizens alliances, which enable us, on an equal political basis, to work together on the agreed actionsb .Commit ourselves as NGOs, and especially NGOs of concerned scientists, to promote dialogue between the scientific community and popular movements.16.With local citizens' groups and communities, to:a .Increase awareness within and mobilize society to identify and tackle the causes and potential effects of climate change and related problemsb .Contribute to the identification of the social and environmental impacts of climate change on the local and global levelc .Contribute to the identification, development and implementation of technologies, practices and lifestyles with the highest efficiency in the issue of energy and other natural resources, and the maximum reliance on renewable energy sources in order to minimize greenhouse gas emissionsd .Support citizen activism at all levels including choices with regard to transportation and waste treatment; and the adoption of full social and environmental pricing of natural resources.17.With governments and government institutions, to:a .urge them to take action which contributes to meeting the objectives of this treaty to reduce CO½ emissions in developed countries by at least 25% by the year 2005 from 1990 levels; to take appropriate measures to substantially reduce emissions of other greenhouse gases; and to pursue emission reductions which ultimately seek the reduction of greenhouse gases by 60%b .urge the development and implementation of programs and policies promoting energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy resources; (currently available nuclear technology is not an acceptable option for dealing with climate change)c .encourage environmentally sound and efficient land use, including the protection of primary forests;d .urge industrialized countries to:i. .provide adequate new and additional financial resources on concessional terms to developing countries that will enable such countries to address climate change issuesii. .guarantee that in order to ensure the good use of these funds NGOs and social movements are fully part of the decision making and monitoring process as well as potential recipients of such fundsiii. .provide adequate opportunities for the sharing and transfer of protected technology, developed by governments and various enterprises on a non commercial basisiv. .convert current military expenditures to these purposes.e .guarantee complete access and information and assure the full and effective participation of citizens and social movements in all relevant government decision making processesf .avoid any emission trading schemes which only superficially address climate change problems, perpetuate or worsen inequities hidden behind the problem, or have negative ecological impactg .while recognizing the inadequacy of the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change we advise governments, as a minimal step, to ratify the convention and implement its provisions.previous | table of contents | next
SpaceX founder files with government to provide Internet service from space
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 05:10
Elon Musk's space company has asked the federal government for permission to begin testing on an ambitious project to beam Internet service from space, a significant step forward for an initiative that could create another major competitor to Comcast, AT&T and other telecom companies.
The plan calls for launching a constellation of 4,000 small and cheap satellites that would beam high-speed Internet signals to all parts of the globe, including its most remote regions. Musk has said the effort ''would be like rebuilding the Internet in space.''
If successful, the attempt could transform SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, Calif., from a pure rocket company into a massive high-speed-Internet provider that would take on major companies in the developed world but also make first-time customers out of the billions of people who are currently not online.
The idea of saturating Earth with Internet signals from space has long been the dream of prominent business tycoons, including Bill Gates in the 1990s. But many of these ventures have run into obstacles that Musk is working to avoid. Musk has his own rocket, and he has said his swarm of satellites will be more efficient and inexpensive than relying on a handful of big devices that are difficult to replace.
Dish Network and DirecTV, for instance, have for years relied on a few older satellites that are cast much farther into space and can serve only specific regions such as the United States. SpaceX's web of satellites would wrap around Earth in low orbit, handing off Internet signals to one another to make connections more reliable and to reach more areas.
The filing, made with the Federal Communications Commission late last month, is the first public glimpse into how Musk will move ahead with the project.
Musk isn't the only billionaire entrepreneur who is pursuing such an idea. Virgin's Richard Branson has partnered with a company with similar ambitions. Both ventures would have to succeed where many have failed.
Facebook recently abandoned its plan to build a $500 million satellite that would provide Internet service across the globe, according to the Information, a tech site.
And a previous effort by a firm called LightSquared to use satellites to provide wireless service fell apart three years ago, despite initial backing from the FCC. Military officials complained at the time that the technology interfered with the radar used by planes '-- a problem that shouldn't hinder Musk's effort, industry officials said.
Musk's FCC filing proposes tests starting next year. If all goes well, the service could be up and running in about five years.
The satellites would be deployed from one of SpaceX's rockets, the Falcon 9. Once in orbit, the satellites would connect to ground stations at three West Coast facilities. The purpose of the tests is to see whether the antenna technology used on the satellites will be able to deliver high-speed Internet to the ground without hiccups.
Despite a history of failed satellite ventures, wealthy individuals and companies are pouring fresh funds into exploring satellite-based communications. Google and Fidelity recently invested $1 billion into SpaceX, in part to support the satellite broadband Internet project.
A new book on Elon Musk offers an unforgettable look at the leader of Tesla and SpaceX. Here are some anecdotes and quotes that stand out. (Matt McFarland and Tom LeGro/The Washington Post)
A company called OneWeb, backed by Virgin's Branson and founded by Greg Wyler, has similar ambitions: ''OneWeb's mission is to bring the entire world online to improve quality of life and spur economic and national development where it's needed most,'' Wyler has said.
Wyler was also involved in launching O3b Networks, which already has 12 satellites in space, providing Internet to 40 customers, including Royal Caribbean International, the Republic of Congo and the Papua New Guinea University of Technology, an O3b spokeswoman said.
Some analysts say that while the technology appears promising, the basic logistics are difficult to overcome. In the mid-1990s, Teledesic, a company funded by Gates, legendary wireless executive Craig McCaw and a Saudi prince, tried to employ a similar plan to use low-Earth-orbiting satellites to provide Internet access. But costs ballooned to more than $9 billion, and the venture ultimately collapsed.
The new space entrepreneurs are proposing technology that is smaller, built in-house and therefore cheaper to operate, industry officials say.
''Some people might say the idea of satellite broadband has come and gone. But the cost structure of the business is so much better than when Bill Gates tried it,'' said Paul Gallant, analyst at Guggenheim Partners, an investment firm. ''I think Musk's track record of disruptive innovation would make this a really attractive business for the .'.'. FCC to support.''
SpaceX declined to comment for this article beyond the public document of its plans. The FCC declined to comment, saying the application is under review.
In January, at a private event to recruit engineers to work at a new satellite design and manufacturing plant in Redmond, Wash., Musk predicted that SpaceX's system would reach remote regions and handle up to 10 percent of Internet traffic in urban and suburban regions, ''where people are stuck with TimeWarner or Comcast.'' His remarks were videotaped by someone in the audience and posted on YouTube.
It would also be a ''real enabler for people in poorer regions of the world,'' Musk said, though he later conceded that SpaceX would need permission from countries to operate the service, a process that could be difficult, if not impossible.
In recent years, SpaceX has moved from a spunky start-up with a seemingly outlandish goal of colonizing Mars to disruptive competitor that has remade the rocket launch business. It became the first commercial space company to fly supplies to the International Space Station. Last year, it won a separate contract to fly astronauts there by 2017. And the Pentagon recently qualified the company to compete for lucrative missions to launch national security satellites into orbit.
SpaceX's main goal remains flying people to Mars, because in order to survive, Musk thinks, humans must become a ''multi-planetary species.''
''Mars is going to need a global communications system, too,'' he said in his January remarks. ''A lot of what we do developing Earth-based communications can be leveraged for Mars, as well, as crazy as that may sound.''
Cecilia Kang is a staff writer covering the business of media and entertainment.
Christian Davenport covers federal contracting for The Post's Financial desk. He joined The Post in 2000 and has served as an editor on the Metro desk and as a reporter covering military affairs. He is the author of "As You Were: To War and Back with the Black Hawk Battalion of the Virginia National Guard."
Audi boss warns Google's self driving cars could monitor where you are to sell ads | Daily Mail Online
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 05:09
Information about location and speed of a car attractive to advertisersRupert Stadler said car is 'like one's living room and should be private' By Reuters
Published: 15:23 EST, 9 June 2015 | Updated: 23:00 EST, 9 June 2015
Volkswagen's Audi will take a stringent line on guarding customers' data, the carmaker's chief executive said on Tuesday, in a thinly veiled swipe at new rival Google.
The emergence of self-driving and connected cars has made software a key component in future cars, opening the market to new entrants like Google, and shaking up the pecking order between carmakers and their suppliers.
Software-driven cars also throw up new questions about who should control data generated by connected cars and drivers, forcing companies to take a clear stance on data privacy.
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'A car is one's second living room today,' Audi Chief Executive Rupert Stadler said on Tuesday at a business event in Berlin attended by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt. 'That's private.'
'A car is one's second living room today,' Audi Chief Executive Rupert Stadler said on Tuesday at a business event in Berlin attended by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.
'The only person who needs access to the data onboard is the customer,' Stadler said, adding Audi 'takes that seriously.'
Information about the location and speed of a car could be attractive to advertisers, insurance and communications companies who could use the data for their own commercial purposes.
Germany's auto industry has lobbied regulators to take a restrictive line on data privacy, a step which could make it harder for software and telecom companies to establish a data-driven business case in the auto sector.
'The customer wants to be at the focus, and does not want to be exploited,' said Stadler.
'The Internet, cookies and other data collectors are almost common courtesy.'
APPLE ATTACKS GOOGLE OVER PRIVACY Apple CEO Tim Cook recently launched a blistering attack on the firm's rivals, accusing them of 'gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it'.
Honored for 'corporate leadership' during EPIC's Champions of Freedom event in Washington. Cook spoke remotely to the crowd.
'Like many of you, we at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security,' Cook said.
'I'm speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information,' said Cook.
'They're gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that's wrong. And it's not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.'
Speaking at the same event, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said the Internet technology company wants 'essential' German expertise to realize its European automobile projects.
The California-based company has worked with Audi, Adam Opel AG and Volkswagen AG in an 'Automobile Alliance' for about a year, Schmidt said.
The remarks of the CEO of VW's flagship division echo a similar stance on privacy taken by rival Daimler which has, like Audi, developed an autonomous car.
As part of their own push into software and autonomous cars, Audi, Daimler's Mercedes and BMW, together with private equity firm General Atlantic, are jointly bidding for Nokia's mapping unit HERE, sources told Reuters last month.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said the Internet technology company wants 'essential' German expertise to realize its European automobile projects.
100 of Google's self driving 'toy cars' to take to the road
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Press release | Bilderberg Meetings
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 05:09
63rd Bilderberg conference to take place from 11 - 14 June 2015 in Telfs-Buchen, Austria.
Telfs-Buchen, 8 June 2015 - The 63rd Bilderberg conference is set to take place from 11 - 14 June 2015 in Telfs-Buchen, Austria. A total of around 140 participants from 22 countries have confirmed their attendance. As ever, a diverse group of political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media have been invited. The list of participants is available on www.bilderbergmeetings.org
The key topics for discussion this year include:
Artificial IntelligenceCybersecurityChemical Weapons ThreatsCurrent Economic IssuesEuropean StrategyGlobalisationGreeceIranMiddle EastNATORussiaTerrorismUnited KingdomUSAUS Elections Founded in 1954, the Bilderberg conference is an annual meeting designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America. Every year, between 120-150 political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media are invited to take part in the conference. About two thirds of the participants come from Europe and the rest from North America; approximately one third from politics and government and the rest from other fields.
The conference is a forum for informal discussions about major issues facing the world. The meetings are held under the Chatham House Rule, which states that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s) nor of any other participant may be revealed.
Thanks to the private nature of the conference, the participants are not bound by the conventions of their office or by pre-agreed positions. As such, they can take time to listen, reflect and gather insights. There is no desired outcome, no minutes are taken and no report is written. Furthermore, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.
Editor's Note, not for publication Media Contact: media[@]bilderbergmeetings.org
END OF DAYS-ARMAGEDDON-Why has NASA announced that a meteor is NOT going to hit the Earth in September? -- Fire in the Sky -- Sott.net
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 05:08
Internet buzz about a giant meteor that is going to strike our planet in September has become so intense that NASA has been forced to issue a statement publicly denying that it is going to happen. NASA insists that the agency knows of "no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth", and that "no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years". To be honest, NASA should perhaps hold off on making such bold statements concerning what will happen in the future considering the fact that theChelyabinsk meteorthat exploded over Russia in 2013 took them totally by surprise. In any event, what we do know is that our region of space is absolutely packed with meteors and asteroids. At this point, approximately 10,000 major near earth objects have been discovered by scientists, and about 10 percent of them are one kilometer or larger in size. If any of those big ones were to hit us, we would be looking at another Tunguska event or worse. Very large meteors have struck our planet before, and they will hit us again. It is only a matter of time.But of most immediate concern to lots of people out there are the various theories that are floating around about September. The following is an excerpt from an article that appeared in a British news source just this week...
Internet bloggers and Armageddon conspiracists are predicting the "end of days" event to happen between September 22 to 28.
One blogger has worryingly suggested US residents retain their firearms after suggesting that the controversial military operation Jade Helm taking place between July and September in several southern states is in preparation for predicted anarchy that could ensue as the asteroid nears the planet.
Meanwhile, many fringe religious groups and Biblical theorists are claiming the predicted impact will herald the beginning of the Rapture - a seven-year tribulation period.
These theories have become so popular that NASA decided to come out and publicly address them...A NASA spokesman said: "NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small.
"In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years."
So NASA has spoken.But is NASA correct?
We will just have to wait and see.
An Inquisitr article points to the prophecies about a meteor hitting the Atlantic Ocean near the island of Puerto Rico given by Efrain Rodriguez as the source for these theories about September. But the article unfairly neglects to point out that Efrain Rodriguez never claimed that it would happen in a particular month or during any particular calendar year...
The growing mass hysteria appears to have originated with a self proclaimed "prophet," Rev. Efrain Rodriguez, who claimed he sent a letter to NASA on Nov. 12, 2010, titled "Letter to the Space Agency... meteor heading toward Puerto Rico."
In the letter, he claimed he had received a message from God that an asteroid that would "soon be seen in the alarm systems of NASA" was approaching. He said the asteroid would hit the ocean near Puerto Rico and cause a massive earthquake and tsunami that would devastate the East Coast of the U.S., Mexico, Central, and South America.
Warning against ignoring the message, he instructed NASA to issue an alert "so people can be relocated from the areas that are to be affected."
If we do ever see an east coast tsunami of that magnitude, it would cause death and destruction along the eastern seaboard on a scale that most people cannot even imagine. This is something that I pointed out in my previous article entitled "East Coast Tsunami: If It Happens, MILLIONS Of Americans Could Die".And it is a fallacy to think that NASA knows about everything that is happening in our region of space and sees anything that is coming toward us well in advance. NASA is not all-powerful. In fact, a large asteroid buzzed our planet just a few months ago and NASA did not even know that is was approaching. So don't put all of your trust in what NASA has to say. Just consider what Professor Brian Cox recently told the Daily Mail...
In September, Brian Cox said we are at risk of being wiped out by asteroids - and we're not taking the threat seriously.
'There is an asteroid with our name on it and it will hit us,' Professor Cox told MailOnline. In fact, the Earth had a 'near-miss' only a few months ago.
'We didn't see it,' says the 46-year-old. 'We saw it on the way out, but if it had just been a bit further over it would have probably wiped us out. These things happen.'
The bus-sized asteroid, named 2014 EC, came within 38,300 (61,637km) miles of Earth in March - around a sixth of the distance between the moon and our planet.
And it wasn't the only one threatening Earth. Nasa is currently tracking 1,400 'potentially hazardous asteroids' and predicting their future approaches and impact probabilities.
The threat is so serious that former astronaut Ed Lu has described it as 'cosmic roulette' and said that only 'blind luck' has so far saved humanity from a serious impact.
So for NASA to imply that nothing is going to hit us for hundreds of years is absolutely laughable.One of the things that I have learned is that when you have imperfect knowledge you should not make absolute statements. NASA needs to learn the same lesson.
And of course if a large object was heading toward the earth, NASA probably would not tell us anyway. This is how the U.S. government works. There is far more emphasis on "keeping everyone calm" than there is on being honest with the American people.
That is why in this day and age it is so vitally important to think for ourselves. Just because something is said on the Internet does not make it true. But also just because NASA (or any other government agency) says something does not make it true either.
As always, do your own research and come to your own conclusions.
What we do know for certain is that giant meteors have hit our planet in the past, and it is just a matter of time before it happens again in our future.
Hopefully when the next giant rock comes hurtling toward us, someone will give us some sort of a warning in advance so that we can all get out of the way.
Remarks by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice at a Tribute to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter - As Prepared for Delivery
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 05:05
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 09, 2015
National Security Advisor Susan E. RiceCenter for the National Interest Tribute to Secretary of Defense Ash CarterAs PreparedWashington, D.C.June 9, 2015
Good evening everyone. Thank you, James, for that introduction. I want to thank General Boyd, Dov Zakheim, Dimitri Simes, and everyone at the Center for the National Interest for bringing us together tonight. It's a tribute to this organization, and to our honoree, that this dinner has drawn such a broad cross section of Washington'--academics and ambassadors, leaders from Congress and the Administration, Republicans and Democrats. For more than 20 years, the Center has reminded us of something we should never forget '' that our national security should stand above politics.
Tonight, I'm proud to celebrate one of the most effective colleagues I've ever had the privilege to work with, my friend Ash Carter. Ash and I go back more than 20 years. We've collaborated both in and out of government. I love Ash. He's a public servant's public servant. He's fiercely competent and wicked smart. He cares about the job at hand and about doing it well'--even when it means long hours away from his wife Stephanie and his kids Will and Ava, especially when Will and Ava were young. Simply put, Ash believes deeply that American leadership can make the world a better, safer, more prosperous place.
I know how much President Obama values and relies on Ash's counsel. I see it every day. But tonight, I want to say how much I personally appreciate Ash, whether we're having our regular working lunches or logging hours together in the Situation Room. I could spend much of the evening extolling Ash's virtues, but I'm standing between you and dinner, so I'll be brief and focus on just three of the reasons I am so grateful to work alongside Ash again.
First, Ash comes from a science background'--training that instills a commitment to starting from the facts and grounding analysis and recommendations in evidence. Which isn't always the case in Washington. Of course, as a theoretical physicist, Ash studied constants like the law of gravity or the conservation of energy or'...the Perturbative Quantum Chromodynamics in a Covariant Gauge. You know, the easy stuff.
In today's rapidly changing world, however, there are few constants. We have to navigate a shifting landscape of rising global powers and nonstate actors and borderless challenges. So it's all the more important to seek out the best information to shape our policies. Ash never fails to dig deeply into the evidence and think critically. I'm told that he even grades the memos that are sent to him at the Pentagon to make sure his staff are coming up to his standards. I'm not joking.
Second, Ash has a practical commitment to getting stuff done'--to not just examining what we should do, but how precisely we can accomplish it. During his years teaching at the Kennedy School, Ash would relish playing the role of president in mock scenarios with his students. He would push them to get more creative with their solutions, dropping lines like ''Don't you put me in a box on this, I am the President of the United States.'' Ash, I have this on the authority of several of your former students who now work at the White House. They sold you out.
He also warned students that he didn't grant extensions because there is no such thing as a late paper in government. You have to be able to deliver excellence within the time and resources you have. That's the mindset he's brought to his work at the Pentagon over the years. When he served as Under Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, he was so focused on cutting through red tape and getting needed equipment and protective gear to the field faster, our troops gave him a nickname'--''The Deliverer.'' Ashton is already a movie star name. With a nickname like ''The Deliverer,'' you could build a Hollywood franchise.
As Secretary, Ash is leading our armed forces through a period of transition while ensuring that our military remains the greatest fighting force in the world. He's taking on multiple pressing national security challenges'--from fulfilling a new mission in Afghanistan, degrading and destroying ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and affirming our enduring commitment to the Asia-Pacific region to improving our readiness to meet future threats. He's also reaching out to tech-minded young people to show them that careers in national security are just as cool as Silicon Valley start-ups. You might have to relax the Pentagon dress code for that though, Ash.
But perhaps the brightest star in Ash's constellation of honors is the respect he's earned from the men and women who wear our country's uniform. And that's the third reason Ash is an invaluable partner. As President Obama has said, Ash has a deep regard and love for our military members and their families. He's passionate about their well-being. He's dedicated many hours of his personal time, together with Stephanie, to visiting our wounded warriors and listening to the stories and the struggles of American service members firsthand.
A couple weeks ago, as Ash marked his first Memorial Day as Secretary, he took a quiet moment to visit Arlington Cemetery. Walking among the headstones in Section 60, he left coins at a few graves'--just a small sign to the families that he'd been there. And met a Gold Star widow visiting the grave of her husband'--a Marine. She had their baby daughter with her. As a devoted dad, I know Ash's heart was breaking for their loss. But he listened. He heard about their sacrifice. And I know beyond a doubt that he carries their story with him, because that's what drives his service every day.
So Ash, on behalf of us all, thank you for your devotion to our men and women in uniform and to the defense and prosperity of this country that we all love. And thank you, as always, for being such a wonderful friend and partner.
6/10/15: White House Press Briefing - YouTube
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 04:56
Barack Obama Caught Smoking - UlstermanBooks.com
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 04:47
This would not be such a big deal if the White House had not repeated over and over again that the president had quit smoking since becoming president.Yet another lie in a very long and growing list of them'...
The White House has not yet officially given a statement regarding the photograph taken this past week of him standing on a balcony with Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi. Some have suggested the box the president is opening could be a pack of his always present nicotine gum. If so, why would one have to step outside to chew gum?
CNN even devoted an entire segment to Barack Obama's quitting smoking, declaring more Americans should follow his example. This despite various reports from D.C. insiders that the president had never actually quit smoking. And his motivation for saying he did had little to do with his health and far more to do with 2008 internal polling that indicated he might lose votes if being honest about his alleged two+plus pack a day habit.
At this point though, the president's failure to quit smoking is unfortunately the very least of his failures'...
Obama's Stupid Propaganda Stuff
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 04:43
Exclusive: Just last month, President Obama dispatched Secretary of State Kerry to secure Russian President Putin's help in addressing the Syrian crisis and other world hotspots '' but despite Putin's agreement, Obama has reversed himself and is back hurling insults at the Russians, a troubling development, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
President Barack Obama must know better regarding the crisis in Ukraine, but he insists on reciting the propaganda lines drafted by his neoconservative and ''liberal interventionist'' advisers blaming everything on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Perhaps, Obama just doesn't have the nerve to go against Official Washington's ''conventional wisdom'' no matter how misguided it is. The last time that Obama went against the grain in a decisive way was when he objected to the Iraq War in 2002, but then, of course, he was just a state senator in Illinois.
President Barack Obama talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 Summit at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, Germany, June 8, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Watching his behavior in the White House over the past six-plus year, I've come to suspect that '' if he had been a national politician amid the Iraq War fever '' he would have gotten in line just like ambitious Sens. Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Joe Biden did. Even as President, a position that gives him enormous power to push back against Official Washington's ''group think,'' he won't.
Instead Obama spouts stupid propaganda stuff that is ultimately damaging to the American Republic. At a moment when Obama needs Putin's help in addressing dangerous crises in the Middle East '' particularly to deal with advances by Al-Qaeda's Nusra Front and Al-Qaeda's hyper-violent spinoff, the Islamic State '' Obama insists on joining in more misrepresentations about the Ukraine crisis.
At the end of the G-7 summit in Bavaria, Germany, Obama proudly announced that he had gotten the other six industrial powers to continue sanctions on Russia, based on the dubious argument that it is Russia, not the U.S.-backed regime in Ukraine, that requires more pressure to implement last February's Minsk-2 agreement.
The Minsk-2 deal largely reflected Putin's ideas regarding negotiations with ethnic Russian rebels in the east and constitutional changes granting the region substantial autonomy. However, after Minsk-2 was signed, hardliners in the Ukrainian government immediately sought to sabotage the political side by inserting a poison pill that required the rebels to essentially surrender before any negotiations could begin.
Since then, the Kiev regime has bulked itself up militarily, including training from 300 U.S. military advisers. In May, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko talked publicly about resuming the war and retaking rebel-held territory in the east, a position that even caused U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to suggest that Poroshenko should ''think twice'' about such an action.
Kerry made that remark during meetings with Putin and senior Russian officials in Sochi, Russia, in what then appeared to be a realistic shift in Obama's foreign policy, recognizing the grave dangers from a possible Al-Qaeda victory in Syria and the need for Russian help in averting that disaster. [See Consortiumnews.com's ''Obama's Strategic Shift.'']
However, in the last few weeks, the flip-flopping Obama seems to have flopped back into the hard-liners' camp of neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and liberal-interventionist Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. Not only did Obama press the G-7 allies to renew sanctions on Russia, Obama hurled personal insults at Putin.
In remarks to the news media on Monday in Krun, Germany, Obama said, ''there is strong consensus that we need to keep pushing Russia to abide by the terms of the Minsk agreement '... [and] that until that's completed, sanctions remain in place. There was discussion about additional steps that we might need to take if Russia, working through separatists, doubled down on aggression inside of Ukraine. '...
''Ultimately, this is going to be an issue for Mr. Putin. He's got to make a decision: Does he continue to wreck his country's economy and continue Russia's isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to re-create the glories of the Soviet empire? Or does he recognize that Russia's greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?
''And as I mentioned earlier, the costs that the Russian people are bearing are severe. That's being felt. It may not always be understood why they're suffering, because of state media inside of Russia and propaganda coming out of state media in Russia and to Russian speakers. '...
''And, ironically, one of the rationales that Mr. Putin provided for his incursions into Ukraine was to protect Russian speakers there. Well, Russian speakers inside of Ukraine are precisely the ones who are bearing the brunt of the fighting. Their economy has collapsed. Their lives are disordered. Many of them are displaced. Their homes may have been destroyed. They're suffering. And the best way for them to stop suffering is if the Minsk agreement is fully implemented.''
In other words, Obama was doing the Full Monty of Official Washington's ''group think'' on the Ukraine crisis '' that it was all caused by Putin's ''aggression'' and his delusions about reestablishing the Soviet or Russian Empire. But Obama knows the real history of the U.S.-supported coup d'etat that ousted Ukraine's elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, 2014, despite Yanukovych's political agreement a day earlier with France, Germany and Poland to accept reduced powers and early elections.
Rather than defending that political settlement, the United States and its European allies immediately recognized the coup regime as ''legitimate,'' although it included neo-Nazis and other violent right-wing extremists who were rabidly hostile to Ukraine's ethnic Russian minority.
In the face of worsening violence, the people of Crimea '' where ethnic Russians are a substantial majority '' voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, an action supported by Russian troops who were based at Russia's historic naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea. Russia accepted Crimea's request but balked at a similar appeal from ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.
Then, amid feverish anti-Russian propaganda in the U.S. and European news media, the Kiev authorities designated the ethnic Russian resistance in the east as ''terrorists'' and mounted a brutal ''anti-terrorism operation'' against the population with the regime's neo-Nazi and other extremist militias spearheading the attacks. [See Consortiumnews.com's ''Seeing No Neo-Nazi Militias in Ukraine.'']
It was in the face of this ethnic cleansing that Russia moved to assist the defense of the so-called Donbass region. Yet, now Obama places the blame for all the destruction and suffering in eastern Ukraine, where thousands have died, not on the U.S.-backed Ukrainian government and its thuggish militias but on Putin.
And, with no sense of irony, Obama suggests that it is the Russian media that is distorting the story, another favorite theme of the U.S. propaganda campaign on Ukraine pushed by both the Obama administration and the mainstream U.S. media.
There was an up-is-down quality to the way that Obama presented the Ukraine situation which is troubling in one of two ways '' either he believes his own propaganda or he is a conscious liar. There's also a third possibility, that he has completely lost his bearings and adopts one position one day and veers in the opposite direction the next depending on who last talked to him.
But whatever the case, Obama cannot expect Putin and the Russians to view his public comments and contradictory behavior in a favorable light '' and then agree to cooperate with Obama on other hotspots where U.S. interests are much more endangered.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (fromAmazonandbarnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry's trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America's Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer,click here.
We're moderate, see? Syrian 'rebels' parade the severed heads of ISIS members
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 04:42
Rebel groups battling the Islamic State in Syria have proudly paraded the severed heads of their defeated enemies, in the latest sign that all sides in the conflict are resorting to shocking barbarism.A coalition of anti-Assad forces were stationed in the town of Azaz, close to the Turkish border, when ISIS militants prepared to carry out a suicide bomb attack followed by a massive assault.
But the rebels were tipped off about the attack in advance and were prepared for the jihadis when they arrived - slaughtering them in the streets of the Azaz before posing with the extremists' severed heads and displaying their mutilated corpses in the centre of the city.
Large crowds of cheering locals took to the streets of Azaz in the aftermath of the failed attack, which was actually under the control of ISIS for several months in 2013.
The ritual humiliation and public exhibition of the butchered corpses was in fact highly symbolic - with the jihadis' severed heads displayed in exactly the same location that ISIS themselves would show off the bodies of those they had brutally executed after Friday prayers.
Describing the attack, one anonymous rebel fighter told VICE News: 'Last night, [ISIS] sent a suicide truck to Sawran, which is the frontline now next to Azaz, but we had info of the operation,'
'So they targeted the truck with a missile... Then the fighters following the truck were caught,' he added.
On the subject of the subsequent beheadings of ISIS fighters, the rebel soldier said: 'It is not the way we act... but it's sort of revenge for all the civilians and leaders they killed.'
The news comes as US-led aircraft bombed ISIS fighters while the jihadis were battling rival Syrian rebels, including Al-Qaeda loyalists, in a first such intervention, a monitoring group said.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described the overnight raids in northern Aleppo as an intervention on the side of the rival rebels, which include forces who have been targeted previously by US-led strikes.
'The coalition carried out at least four strikes overnight targeting IS positions in the town of Suran,' the UK-based Observatory said.
The US military, in a statement, said an air raid near Aleppo destroyed an ISIS ant-aircraft artillery piece and a jihadist fighting position.
'It's the first time that the international coalition has supported non-Kurdish opposition forces fighting the Islamic State,' Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
He said at least eight IS fighters were killed in the strikes and another 20 were injured.
Syria expert Thomas Pierret said the raids showed Washington was intent on preventing IS from expanding in Aleppo province, which is currently largely divided between regime and rebel control.
'Washington seems really determined to stop IS from advancing against the rebels in Aleppo,' said Pierret, a professor at the University of Edinburgh.
The strikes showed Washington's 'pragmatism', he said, noting that Al Qaeda affiliate 'Al-Nusra only constitutes a small part of the rebel forces that are fighting IS,' in Aleppo, with moderate forces holding more territory.Syrian state TV said government forces launched air strikes near Suran on 'terrorists', the term used by Damascus for all those fighting President Bashar al-Assad. It gave no further details.
ISIS captured Suran a week ago and has been fighting an alliance of rebels including Al-Nusra and Islamist Ahrar al-Sham in the surrounding area.
Both Al Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham have been targeted in US-led raids and like ISIS, Al-Nusra is blacklisted as a 'terrorist organisation' by Washington.
Major TTIP vote at European Parliament postponed due to 'political divisions'
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 04:41
Posted on June 9, 2015 by willyloman
A key vote on the controversial TTIP resolution was postponed by European Parliament last minute on Tuesday. While a large number of amendments have been cited as the reason for the delay, some believe the ''mounting public pressure'' is ''bearing fruit.''
The plenary Wednesday vote on Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) resolution was postponed by the European Parliament's president on Tuesday evening. The vote on the controversial report following the ongoing EU-US TTIP trade and investment negotiations will not take place ''in view of the fact that more than 200 amendments and requests for split or separate votes have been tabled,'' President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz announced.
[read more here]
Filed under: Uncategorized
Putin: Ukraine crisis created deliberately by West's unprofessional actions
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 04:40
(C) REUTERS/ Gleb Garanich
The conflict in Ukraine was created intentionally and follows "unprofessional actions" by the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin said."I believe that this crisis was created deliberately and it is the result of our partner's unprofessional actions," Putin said in an interview with Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera ahead of his visit to Milan.
The president added that the coverage of the situation surrounding Ukraine has been "absolutely unacceptable."
The West has been accusing Russia of meddling in Ukraine's internal affairs and supporting independence fighters in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, where Kiev launched a special military operation in April, 2014. The United States and the European Union have also criticized Moscow over the reunification of Crimea with Russia in March, 2014.
Russia has repeatedly stressed that it is not involved in the situation in Ukraine, also pointing to the fact that 96 percent of Crimean residents voted for rejoining Russia at a referendum following a declaration of independence from Ukraine.
"I would like to emphasize once more: this was not our choice, we did not seek it, we are simply forced to respond to what is happening."
Russia has had to deal with a range of sanctions imposed against it by the West over the Ukrainian crisis. In response to the restrictive measures Russia has introduced a one-year food ban against countries that have introduced anti-Russia sanctions.
The Ukrainian crisis started in 2014 when pro-EU forces, including radical nationalists, backed by Western powers, ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych after he did not sign an association agreement with the European Union.
Following the appointment of new pro-Western and increasingly nationalist leadership in Kiev, it was proposed that the country join NATO in recent months, and drop its non-aligned status.
Russian President also said that concerns over a possible repetition of the Crimean scenario in the ongoing conflict in southeastern Ukraine (Donbass) are ungrounded because Crimea's residents voted to rejoin Russia while people in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions opted for independence.
"The Crimean scenario does not reflect Russia's position; it reflects the position of the people who live in Crimea," Putin said.
"All our actions...were aimed not at tearing away this territory from Ukraine but at giving the people living there an opportunity to express their opinion on how they want to live their lives."
Putin emphasized that, in contrast to Crimea residents, people in Ukraine's Donetsk and Lugansk regions have demanded sovereignty from Ukraine as they refused to recognize the new Kiev government, which came to power as a result of a coup in February.
"And if somebody wants these territories to remain part of Ukraine, they should prove to those people that their lives would be better, more comfortable and safer within a unified state; that they would be able to provide for themselves and ensure their children's future within this state."
Donetsk and Lugansk residents held independence referendums in May, 2014. As a result, the self-proclaimed people's republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (DPR and LPR) were established. DPR and LPR fighters have been countering attacks from Kiev forces, which launched a special military operation against residents of southeast Ukraine in April, 2014.
"But it is impossible to convince these people by means of weapons. These issues, issues of this kind can only be resolved by peaceful means," Putin stressed.
Putin noted that Russia is doing everything possible to influence independence supporters in Ukraine's southeast in seeking a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian conflict, and is calling on its EU and US partners to make the same effort in relation to Kiev.
"On our part, we take every effort, and will continue to do so, in order to influence the authorities of the unrecognized self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics. But not everything depends on us. Our European and US partners should exert influence on the current Kiev administration. We do not have the power, as Europe and the United States do, to convince Kiev to carry out everything that was agreed on in Minsk."
Putin also stressed that the European Union could and should provide more substantial funds to crisis-hit Ukraine.
He described the situation in the contested Donbass region in eastern Ukraine as a "humanitarian disaster."
"Our European colleagues have taken on certain obligations, in particular they promised to help restore the banking system in these territories. Finally, since we are talking about what can or must be done, and by whom, I believe that the European Union could surely provide greater financial assistance to Ukraine," the Russian president stressed.
The deep political crisis in Ukraine has had a devastating impact on the country's economy and finances, pushing the former Soviet republic to the brink of a default.
"The problem is that representatives of Kiev's current authorities do not even want to sit at the same negotiating table with them [Donbass representatives]. And we can do nothing about that. Only our European and American partners can use their influence there. And it is unnecessary to threaten us with sanctions. We have nothing to do with this," Putin stressed.
CNN's 'Courageous' Advertorial Mill '-- FAIR
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 04:23
CNN hopes its ''trustworthiness'' will get corporations to pay it to make ''news-like content'' that will ''tell advertisers' stories.'' (CNN screen grab: Daily Buzz)
CNN has announced the formation of a new unit that will not report the news. Instead, it will take money from corporations to produce content that resembles news but is actually PR designed to burnish its clients' images.
The name CNN gives to this mercenary enterprise? ''Courageous.''
It's hard to see what's particularly courageous about CNN's move, even if you see the destruction of journalistic boundaries as a heroic struggle. As a report about CNN's foray into ''news-like content on behalf of advertisers'' on a Wall Street Journal marketing blog (6/8/15) notes, ''news companies from the New York Times to BuzzFeed to the Wall Street Journal have units that create advertiser content.''
Perhaps CNN anticipates courageously withstanding ethical criticism. As the Journal's Steven Perlberg notes, ''These undertakings often raise church-and-state questions about the divide between the editorial and business sides of a company''''understandably, since the point of so-called native advertising is to create advertising vehicles ''that feel like editorial work.''
But CNN's parent company insists that this is not about fooling consumers:
''This isn't about confusing editorial with advertising,'' said Dan Riess, executive vice president of integrated marketing and branded content at Turner. ''This is about telling advertisers' stories '-- telling similar stories but clearly labeling that and differentiating that.''
Mr. Riess said CNN's trustworthiness when it comes to news was part of the reason Courageous would be attractive to advertisers.
''This is CNN. We're not here to blur the lines,'' he said.
So advertisers will come to Courageous because CNN's ''trustworthiness'' and unwillingness to ''blur the lines'' will be transfered by viewers to advertising content that is ''similar'' to CNN's news but ''clearly label[ed] and differentiat[ed].'' This is a business strategy, of course, that only works if the similarity outweighs the differentiation.
Jim Naureckas is the editor of FAIR.org.
Messages to CNN can be sent to here (or via Twitter @CNN). Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective.
UN's Ban Ki-moon caves in, takes Israel off list of serious child abusers | The Electronic Intifada
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 04:22
Ali AbunimahRights and Accountability8 June 2015
A Palestinian medic cares for a wounded child after a 19 August 2014 Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza City killed a young girl, a woman and injured 16 other people.
Ashraf AmraAPA imagesUN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has caved in to pressure from Israel and the United States and taken the Israeli military off an official list of serious violators of children's rights, in this year's report on children in armed conflict.
In doing so, Ban rejected an official recommendation from his own Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui and numerous human rights organizations and child rights defenders.
Ban's act is particularly egregious since the report found that the number of children killed in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2014, at 557, was the third highest only after Iraq and Afghanistan and ahead of Syria.
''The revelation that Israel's armed forces were removed from the annex of the annual report by Ban Ki-moon is deplorable,'' Brad Parker, attorney and international advocacy officer at Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-Palestine), told The Electronic Intifada.
''The annual report and its annex, or children's 'list of shame,' has been a strong evidence-based accountability tool proven to help increase protections for children in armed conflict situations. There is ample evidence on persistent grave violations committed by Israeli forces since at least 2006 that should have triggered listing,'' Parker added.
''The secretary-general's decision to place politics above justice and accountability for Palestinian children has provided Israeli forces with tacit approval to continue committing grave violations against children with impunity,'' Parker said.
The top UN official's decision will be greeted with relief by the Obama administration, Israel and others concerned with ensuring such Israeli impunity.
Obama pressure''The draft 2015 report prepared by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, recommended adding Israel and Hamas to the annexed list of parties '' the so-called 'list of shame' '' due to their repeated violations against children,'' Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on 4 June.
Human Rights Watch called on Ban to ''list all countries and armed groups that have repeatedly committed these violations, and resist reported pressure from Israel and the United States to remove Israel from the draft list.''
But that pressure proved irresistible to Ban. Foreign Policyreported last week that the Obama administration had made a concerted effort to pressure him to drop Israel from the list for cynical political reasons.
According to an unnamed UN official quoted by Foreign Policy, the Obama administration was concerned about false accusations that ''the White House is anti-Israel,'' as the US completes sensitive negotiations over Iran's civilian nuclear energy program.
False balanceHuman Rights Watch supported calls on Ban to list Hamas as well as Israel, but this appears to have been a maneuver to look ''balanced'' and avoid baseless accusations of anti-Israel bias frequently leveled at the organization.
Sources familiar with the final report have told The Electronic Intifada that Hamas is not on the list either.
But the violations attributed to Palestinian armed groups, including the death of one Israeli child last summer due to a rocket fired from Gaza, can hardly be compared in scope to the systematic mass killings with impunity of Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip and West Bank by Israeli occupation forces.
Since Hamas and other Palestinian armed resistance groups are already under international sanctions and arms embargoes and listed by various countries as ''terrorist organizations,'' adding Hamas to the list would have meant little.
It is Israel whose violations continue not only with impunity but with assistance from the predominantly European and North American governments that arm it.
DCI-Palestine documented the killings of at least 547 Palestinian children during last summer's Israeli assault on Gaza.
Human Rights Watch cites as part of Israel's record the ''unlawful killing of children'' in the occupied West Bank, including Nadim Nuwara and Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, both 17, shot dead by snipers on 15 May 2014.
In April, a board of inquiry set up by Ban found that Israel killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians in seven attacks on United Nations-run schools in the Gaza Strip last summer.
SabotageIn March, there was an outcry among Palestinian and international human rights advocates when it was revealed that UN officials appeared to be trying to sabotage the evidence-based process that leads to a recommendation of listing, after threats from Israel.
Palestinian organizations called on the mid-level UN officials accused of interfering with the process to resign.
This led to assurances from Special Representative Zerrougui that the decision-making process was still underway and indeed, after gathering all the evidence, Zerrougui did recommend that Israel be listed.
Such a recommendation comes after UN bodies collect evidence in collaboration with human rights organizations, according to specific criteria mandated in UN Security Council Resolution 1612.
But despite the months-long nonpolitical and evidence-based process, the final decision was always in Ban's hands.
Partner in Israel's crimesThere was much at stake for Israel and indeed for Ban if he had gone with the evidence instead of submitting to political pressure.
''Inclusion of a party on the secretary general's list triggers increased response from the UN and potential Security Council sanctions, such as arms embargoes, travel bans, and asset freezes,'' Human Rights Watch notes.
''For a country or armed group to be removed from the list, the UN must verify that the party has ended the abuses after carrying out an action plan negotiated with the UN.''
Ban has a long history of using his office to ensure that Israel escapes accountability except for the mildest verbal censures that are almost always ''balanced'' with criticism of those who live under Israeli occupation.
At the height of last summer's Israeli attack on Gaza, 129 organizations and distinguished individuals wrote to the secretary-general, condemning him for ''your biased statements, your failure to act, and the inappropriate justification of Israel's violations of international humanitarian law, which amount to war crimes.''
Ban's record, they said, made him a ''partner'' in Israel's crimes. His latest craven decision will only cement that well-earned reputation.
While Israel will celebrate victory in the short-term, the long-term impact will likely be to further discredit the UN as a mechanism for accountability and convince more people of the need for direct popular pressure on Israel in the form of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
TagsAbsolutely disgraceful, UN is just another large organization ruled by the US and Israel. Useless they
Disgusting that the UN should be ruled by Israel and it's puppet USA.
Just the way we all know you, spineless puppet. By just talking and no action you gave the UN already a bad reputation. But not to address these obvious (war) crimes you only confirm you really don't have any respect for Palestinian human lives. Step down and enjoy the bribe!
I could not have said it better.What an embarrassment to the United nations this man is.
Caving into US and Israeli pressure is the "in-thing" to do these days.It's like a new dance: Everyone is doing it!!
Agree wholeheartedly with "martin doris" or "doris martin" that Israelshould be put on a list of those involved in massive state terror. OtherUN actions (sanctions, embargoes, legislation etc." could then follow.
(Argumentation is left out as superfluouus here. It is available and horriblyspecific in many sources.)
Remember the Nakba!
---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA
Ban is nothing if not consistent.
Israelis have a phrase, "shoot and cry", to describe the hypocrisy of their armed forces. Ban does them one better. He's an exponent of the "cry and cry" approach. He cries over the dead children. He cries over the annexation of Palestinian land. He cries over the murdered UN personnel and bombed refugee centers. And he does everything he can to ensure that Israel and the United States continue to enjoy effective impunity- so that he can cry again next month, next year.
I think about "shoot and cry" every time I listen to Amy Goodman's "democracy now". It is exactly what goes on all the time on so much media these days.No one tries to stop it, but they capitalize on whining about it, and Goodman is the expert on that. Maybe that's why she doesn't like BDS - she needs the shooting to cry about.
The plight of Palestine can be summed up in one single term: GAZERNICA. We all know about Guernica, but it is time the world acknowledges GAZERNICA.
Now why are we not surprised? So much for UN special reports.
Sort of reminiscent of that old Roger B Taney quote, that Blacks being of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect. Substitute Arabs or Palestinians for Blacks.
To the Sheldon Adelsons of the world we say. Despite all the bribe money you pay to corrupt hacks, from your ill gotten pilferings and lootings, YOU ARE GOING TO LOSE! Turn yourself in now, and beat the rush. We will go easier on you.
UN and USA are Israeli occupied territory
Thunder-like boom in West Kootenay, British Columbia prompts speculation
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 04:12
(C) Will JohnsonResidents in Nelson, Castlegar, Trail, Rossland, Warfield, Blewett and Salmo all reported hearing a house-shaking, loud boom at approximately 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, June 6.
No one's quite sure what caused a loud, rumbling noise Saturday morning heard by people from Salmo, Fruitvale, Trail, Rossland, Castlegar, Nelson, and points in between.Many people on the Farm the Kootenays Facebook page reported hearing it and suggested what it might have been.
According to Robert Bailer and Alison Duff, dogs began barking at 6 a.m.
"I heard that in Rossland! I just assumed it was blasting on the highway," wrote Betty R. Rekster.
"Reminded me of Mt. St. Helen's when I heard it," wrote Jim Ross.
Brittanie Reid wrote "I heard it was an explosion at Copper Mountain in Princeton," but the Similkameen Spotlight confirmed there was no such explosion reported there on Saturday.
Both Sheri Ferraro and Ryan Lewis reported feeling their houses shake during the sound. Though some thought it might be an earthquake, Meghan Osborne wrote "I lived in South California all my life ... I've never heard an earthquake sound like that."
Kathy Whitney suggested: "Fracking for oil in nearby Idaho or Washington?"
Some were reminded of the 2007 incident in which a low-flying jet woke up citizens and shook houses in Trail, prompting a response from BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko.
Michael Guy wrote "For it to have travelled over so many ranges it would've needed to originate high up. I think sonic boom from a military jet is the best explanation."
But Ross took issue with that.
"The sound from Mt. St. Helens traveled all the way here when it happened. Doesn't have to originate from high up to travel long distances. Mt. St. Helens was heard as far north as Prince George."
Seismologist Taimi Mulder, who works with the Geographical Survey of Canada, said the noise could have been the result of blasting, road construction or rock quarrying.
None of their instruments registered the event, which means it was "definitely not an earthquake."
She said the fact the noise traveled such a distance means it traveled through the air. She noted the communities affected draw a line down the Columbia River, and said it was most likely a sonic boom caused by a military jet or a meteorite passing overheard, which could create shockwaves capable of shaking a house.
Other commenters linked to articles suggesting the event was caused by the Arietids meteor shower, which happens annually between May and July.
"When you hear the noise associated, the rock has to enter through the atmosphere which leaves a trail of light and creates a sonic boom. But it's harder to see during daylight," said Mulder.
That might explain why no one reported seeing anything. These showers are reportedly hard to identify with the human eye.
"In my experience the most likely thing here is a military aircraft or a meteorite. That's what it's always been in the past," said Mulder.
Zhupanovsky volcano in Russia's Kamchatka Territory spews column of ash 6 km above sea level
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 04:11
(C) AP/Brynjar Gauti
Zhupanovsky Volcano in Russia's Far Eastern Kamchatka Territory has spewed ash to a height of six kilometres above sea level, the Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT) of the Institute of Volcanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences told TASS on Tuesday."The ash column reached six kilometres above sea level. The plume of ash has been taken by the wind to a distance of 30 kilometres in the southerly direction," a KVERT spokesman said.
The volcano poses no threat to populated localities. Nonetheless, it has been assigned an orange aviation colour code. It is not ruled out that the volcano may spew more ash up to eight kilometres high.
Zhupanovsky Volcano, which takes its name from a river of the same name flowing in its vicinity, is located in eastern Kamchatka, some 70 kilometers north of the Kamchatka capital, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Zhupanovsky is one of the least studied volcanoes in the region despite its proximity to a large city. It is a complex volcano composed of four overlapping cones aligned on a roughly east-west oriented axis, with the highest cone reaching 2,958 meters high, and the lowest one being 2,505 meters high. The giant mount has been active since October 2013.
Monsanto Meets With Syngenta Investors to Push for Buyout Talks - Bloomberg Business
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 04:07
Monsanto Co., the world's largest seed company, met this week with Syngenta AG shareholders in a bid to pressure the Swiss rival into negotiations after a $45 billion takeover offer was rejected.
Chief Operating Officer Brett Begemann and Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley met Monday and Tuesday in Europe to discuss the merits of the bid with Syngenta investors, many of whom also own Monsanto shares, said Scott Partridge, vice president of strategy. The shareholders are frustrated the Basel, Switzerland-based company has refused to negotiate, he said.
''I'd suspect they will try to get to Syngenta's management and board,'' Partridge said Wednesday by phone. ''If that helps Syngenta's board and management engage, that would be a good thing because they haven't engaged thus far.''
Syngenta has snubbed Monsanto's unsolicited offer of 449 Swiss francs ($482) a share, with 45 percent in cash, deeming it too low and the execution risk too high. The bid represents a 43 percent premium to Syngenta's share price at the close on April 30, just before Bloomberg News reported the proposal.
Syngenta closed at 401.70 francs in Zurich on Wednesday, valuing the company at about 37 billion francs.
Monsanto on Sunday said it would pay a $2 billion breakup fee if regulators reject the deal, and it reiterated plans to sell overlapping seed and chemical units to overcome antitrust objections. Syngenta responded that its U.S. suitor has failed to convince it of the merits of a merger, calling the breakup fee ''paltry'' and saying the planned divestitures don't resolve the regulatory issues.
Due DiligenceMonsanto could ''potentially refine our view on value'' if Syngenta, through a due diligence process, would allow access to strategic plans and other non-public information that could demonstrate greater earnings potential than indicated by publicly available data, Partridge said.
''Syngenta needs to engage so we can start the diligence process to see if 449 is the right number or not,'' he said. ''They've got a huge premium offer on the table, and they need to talk to us if they have more information where they believe there is greater value.''
Monsanto's buyout offer would combine its leading franchise in genetically modified crops with the world's biggest maker of agricultural chemicals. Syngenta faces the twin challenges of a detrimental effect on business of a prolonged pursuit and widespread expectations among investors of a higher offer.
Syngenta may be willing to consider a bid of at least 500 francs a share, a person familiar with the matter said last month.
Invitation to TalkMonsanto's meetings this week stemmed from public presentations last month in New York by Begemann, Fraley and Executive Vice President Kerry Preete at investor conferences hosted by Goldman Sachs & Co. and BMO Capital Markets Corp., Partridge said. The executives were invited to talk with investors in Europe, he said.
''We want to be responsive to people who have an interest in this transaction and who believe it should advance and take place,'' Partridge said. ''We are not out in a campaign.''
Monsanto, in an April letter to Syngenta, proposed creating a new name for the combined company and incorporating in the U.K. Syngenta executives, in discussions that have spanned years, have said they want a neutral location for a merged company, Partridge said. Monsanto doesn't want to be incorporated in Switzerland and suggested the U.K. as a compromise, he said.
The location wasn't repeated in Monsanto's proposal adding the breakup fee this week.
Regardless of where the company is incorporated, it will continue to be run from St. Louis, Partridge said.
Notice of Availability for the First Responder Guidance for Improving Survivability in Improvised Explosive Device and/or Active Shooter Incidents
Tue, 09 Jun 2015 12:38
The Department of Homeland Security Office of Health Affairs is making available to the public a guidance document titled, ''First Responder Guidance for Improving Survivability in Improvised Explosive Device and/or Active Shooter Incidents.''
This document is available on the following DHS Web site: http://www.dhs.gov/publication/iedactive-shooter-guidance-first-responders.
At the request of first responders and first receivers who have encountered mass casualties from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and/or active shooter incidents, this document was developed to provide guidance on how to better approach these incidents. This multi-disciplinary, Federal first responder guidance translates evidence-based response strategies from the U.S. military's vast experience in responding to and managing casualties from IED and/or active shooter incidents into the civilian first responder environment. Additionally, civilian best practices and lessons learned from similar incidents, both in the United States and abroad, are incorporated into this guidance. The recommendations presented'--early, aggressive hemorrhage control; use of protective equipment (which includes ballistic vests, helmets, and eyewear); and greater first responder interoperability and incident management'--will help to save lives by mitigating first responder risk and improving the emergent and immediate medical management of casualties encountered during IED and/or active shooter incidents.
William Seifarth, DHS Office of Health Affairs, telephone: 202-254-6077 or email: email@example.com..
Dated: June 3, 2015.
Deputy Director (Acting), Workforce Health and Medical Support Division, DHS Office of Health Affairs.
[FR Doc. 2015-14010 Filed 6-8-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 9110-9K-P
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 03:56
Emilie G. Kaplan Admitted to Practice Before U.S. Supreme CourtPosted On 10 16th, 2014
On October 14, 2014, Partner Emilie G. Kaplan was sworn in to practice before the United States Supreme Court in an admission ceremony before all of the Justices of the Court in Washington, D.C. All of the firm's partners are now licensed to practice before the Supreme Court.
Stuart M. Brody Secures Subrogation Recoveries in Excess of $300,000.00Posted On 09 11th, 2014
Named Partner Stuart M. Brody recently obtained two large subrogation recoveries on behalf of the Firm's insurance carrier clients. One recovery was monies embezzled by an ex-employee of the insured and the other involved a public utility responsible for causing a fire at the insured's retail furniture store. These settlements demonstrate Stuart's expertise in achieving [...]
Emilie G. Kaplan named as a Partner by the FirmPosted On 09 9th, 2014
On May 1, 2014, the Firm named Emilie G. Kaplan as a Partner. Emilie has been associated with the Firm since 2007. Emilie's practice includes insurance-related litigation as well as personal injury and general commercial litigation. She has acted as first chair trial counsel in numerous jury trials, including one in August 2014 in which [...]
Firm Expands its Midwest PracticePosted On 06 24th, 2013
Sneckenberg, Thompson & Brody, LLP continues to expand its Midwest litigation practice with named partner Steven M. Thompson's recent admission to practice law in the State of Kansas. The Firm now has licensed attorneys in the states of Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska, as well as various federal Courts in those states as [...]
Partner Steven M. Thompson Named a Top Rated Lawyer in Insurance LawPosted On 06 6th, 2013
The Firm congratulates named Partner Steven M. Thompson on being selected as Top Rated Lawyer in Insurance Law for 2013 by American Lawyer Media and Martindale-Hubbell. Steve will be named in the August 2013 issue of The American Lawyer & Corporate Counsel published by American Lawyer Media, a leading provider of news and information to [...]
Firm's Attorneys to Present at Upcoming Continuing Education ProgramPosted On 04 4th, 2013
Partner Steven M. Thompson, Senior Associate Emilie G. Kaplan, and Associate Michelle C. Fitzpatrick were chosen as presenters at a Continuing Education Program video webcast that is available worldwide on May 7, 2013. The topic of the program is ''Product Liability Litigation for Paralegals,'' and is intended to educate paralegals on the expectations of litigation [...]
Partner Steven M. Thompson Named One of Chicago's Top Rated LawyersPosted On 04 4th, 2013
Named Partner Steven M. Thompson has been selected as one of ''Chicago's Top Rated Lawyers'' in 2013. The Firm is proud of Mr. Thompson's accomplishment and congratulates him on his continued record of success!
Firm's Attorneys Admitted to Federal District Court in IndianaPosted On 01 11th, 2013
The Firm continues to expand its ever-growing geographical areas of practice, most recently through the admission to practice in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana sitting in Indianapolis, Indiana. In December 2012, named partners Steven M. Thompson and Stuart M. Brody, as well as Senior Associate Emilie G. Kaplan, were sworn [...]
Bill Sneckenberg & Emilie Kaplan Designated as Super Lawyers for Second Consecutive YearPosted On 01 11th, 2013
For the second consecutive year, Founding Partner William J. Sneckenberg and Senior Associate Emilie G. Kaplan were nominated by peer attorneys in the state of Illinois and selected by the Super Lawyers organization, which publishes annual lists, by state, of the ''Super Lawyers'' and ''Rising Stars'' in various practice areas. Mr. Sneckenberg was selected as [...]
Partner Stuart M. Brody Conducts Training Sessions for Property Damage Claims AdjustersPosted On 01 8th, 2013
Recently, named partner Stuart M. Brody conducted three training sessions for more than a one hundred property damage claims adjusters for a major national insurance carrier. The property training sessions were held in three different states in the midwest and included the topics of claims investigations, coverage issues and subrogation.
Stuart M. Brody, Partner
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 03:55
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgPhone: (312) 782-9320Fax: (312) 782-3787
Office161 North Clark StreetSuite 3575Chicago, IL 60601
Stuart's practice includes the representation of insurers, as well as individuals and corporate clients. His insurance practice includes property, general liability defense, commercial liability defense, subrogation and insurance coverage issues. Stuart's insurance practice also includes the investigation of fires, building collapses and various other property losses. He also concentrates in first party property and auto coverage with an emphasis on fraud investigation. He also represents plaintiffs in personal injury claims, medical malpractice and employment/labor disputes. Stuart has tried over thirty bench and jury trials to verdict, and over fifty arbitration hearings, and numerous appeals. His practice is unique in its ability to be impartial and effective in representing both plaintiffs and defendants.
AdmittedSupreme Court of Illinois (1990)Supreme Court of Colorado (2001)Supreme Court of Michigan (2010)U.S. District Court for the Northern District of IllinoisU.S. District Court for the Southern District of IndianaU.S. District Court for the Eastern District of MichiganU.S. Supreme Court (2013)
Law SchoolLoyola University of Chicago School of Law, J.D. (1990)
CollegeUniversity of Illinois, Champaign, B.S., Political Science and Economics (1987)
MembershipsIllinois State Bar Association | www.isba.orgChicago Bar Association | www.chicagobar.orgWomen's Bar Association of Illinois | www.wbaillinois.org/wbaiDecalogue Society of Lawyers | www.decaloguesociety.orgNorthwest Suburban Bar Association | www.nwsba.orgAmerican Bar Association | www.americanbar.orgFederal Bar Association | www.fedbar.orgIllinois Trial Lawyers Association | www.iltla.orgAmerican Association for Justice | www.justice.orgNational Association of Subrogation Professionals | www.subrogation.orgMichigan State Bar | www.michbar.orgColorado Bar Association | www.cobar.orgGreater Chicago Chapter of the Honorable Order of the Blue Goose International | http://www.bluegoose.orgBoiler and Machinery Insurance Association of Chicago
LecturesSubrogation Overview and Training, Farmers Insurance, annually 2001-2013''Commercial Large Loss Subrogation'' Seminar, Nationwide Insurance, January 2013''Large Loss Subrogation'' Seminar, Nationwide Insurance, November 2011Guest Lecturer at DePaul University School of LawLecturer of Law and Adjunct Professor of the Pretrial Litigation course at Loyola University Chicago School of Law from 1991-1993
Special Distinctions & Honors/Leadership2015 Illinois ''Super Lawyer''2014 Illinois ''Super Lawyer'' '' Insurance CoverageJudge of the CBA Moot Court CompetitionJudge of the ABA National Moot Court CompetitionJudge for the ABA Law Student National Negotiation/Mediation Competition FinalsJudge of the ATLA (American Trial Lawyers Association) Mock Trial '' Trial Advocacy Competition
Can Local Officials Who Ignore Climate Change Risks Be Sued? - Scientific American
Thu, 11 Jun 2015 03:55
The act-of-god defense for extreme weather impacts is being challenged in court
By Evan Lehmann and ClimateWire| June 8, 2015DVIDSHUB/Flickr
The record downpour began soaking the Chicago area before dawn, and foul liquid was soon gushing into a retired doorman's basement. It climbed the walls as if filling a giant fish tank, and the result was a rare legal test about climate change.
The court case blames local officials for failing to prepare for worsening flooding as temperatures rise, this time causing damage to about 300 homes. The class-action lawsuit, now in its seventh year and recently suffering a major setback, is believed by some experts to be among the earliest efforts to link real flood losses to global warming and government negligence. The case has gone virtually unnoticed until now.
It started with a cloudburst that challenged historic probabilities. The storm struck on Sept. 13, 2008, drumming the lakefront city with more than a half-foot of water. It broke every daily rainfall record since the Civil War era. Cars were swamped, sewers bled, and Dennis Tzakis' basement churned with a watery mess of gravel and waste that had smashed two windows to get inside. After it filled the basement, it began exploring the first floor.
''There was fish in the street,'' Tzakis recalled. ''Fish in my basement.''
Like the storm, the lawsuit is an outlier. It points to the effects of higher temperatures on rainfall patterns and alleges that the local government isn't just failing to keep up with extreme weather, but it's making the damage worse. The suit is the brainchild of Detroit lawyer Phillip Bazzo, who's using climate arguments in several Midwestern flood cases. He's sometimes described as a pioneer, though one, as yet, without a victory.
The suit argues that the suburb of Park Ridge, Ill., the Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and two other suburban towns caused the flooding by installing mismatched drainage pipes decades ago, some of which are too small, and by failing to enact new standards requiring property owners to reduce runoff in an era of heavier rainstorms. The suit also blames Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, which built a campus of buildings and parking lots, that channeled rainwater into the neighborhood downstream. Up to 300 homeowners are plaintiffs in the case.
The case focuses its argument on negligence, saying the defendants failed to draw down reservoirs, fix shoddy pipe designs and deploy rain barriers before the storm. It seeks compensation that Bazzo recently estimated could reach $100 million. But that was before a setback turned the case's innovative legal argument involving climate change into an experiment that's losing air.
Officials of a flooded town get an immunity bathOn April 3, the towns and the water district were granted immunity from liability by the Circuit Court of Cook County. The ruling removed the most important defendants from the case, the public entities that can approve new infrastructure projects. The case stood to encourage climate adaptive policies, like enacting standards to withstand more muscular rainfalls, supporters say. Now, only one main defendant remains in the case, the hospital. And it doesn't make public policy decisions.
''We're using outdated science to engineer our sewers in this nation,'' Bazzo said before the April ruling. ''There definitely is a new calculus here.''
Bazzo was the unseen provocateur in a much larger lawsuit last spring. The case captured widespread attention for its aggressiveness and for the reverberations it might have had on local climate policies.
Bazzo wrote the climate section of a complaint filed on behalf of Farmers Insurance Co., which argued that dozens of Chicagoland municipalities failed to drain the area's maze of underground storm tunnels before a 2013 rainfall. About 600 homes were flooded. Observers at the time described the case as an effort to push liability for climate-related damages on to local governments. Perhaps the most provocative aspect came from Bazzo: Public officials are aware that rainfall rates are on the rise, but are failing to confront it, he wrote.
The Farmers case fizzled abruptly. Company officials required its dismissal within weeks of being filed because of corporate pressure, according to Stuart Brody, a Chicago lawyer involved in that case.
''What I couldn't tell you at the time was when we filed it there was so much press and so much heat from everywhere'--I can't even tell you the details'--that it got all the way up very, very high to the point where, for lack of a better phrasing, the political and internal pressures became too great for a lot of people that were dealing with this,'' Brody said recently. ''That's when my client essentially told me, 'We want to pull out.'''
Some observers believe the case overreached. It involved too many towns, making it difficult to show that all of them had been negligent in maintaining their flood defenses, they said.
But the filing might have been a kind of affirmation for Bazzo, who has been making the same kind of arguments about climate change in a handful of smaller cases. Two are still pending in Michigan, apart from the one in Chicago. All of them involve homeowners, not a major insurer, which might have greater influence over public flood policies. Still, not everyone thinks Bazzo's arguments are ready for the real world. At least, not yet.
Lawyers still see rainbowsDavid Dubin, another Detroit lawyer, says there's merit to the idea that some cities aren't preparing for heavier flooding. Old storm pipes are often in disrepair, and rainfalls are now more bruising, he said. But he's only seen one person make warming-related accusations in court'--Bazzo, a former colleague with whom he's had disagreements. Dubin thinks climate arguments will increase over time. Strong storms act like a ''stress test for the heart,'' he said, but in this case, the arteries are subterranean tunnels.
But for now, that argument isn't ripe, Dubin said. Legally, it's more sure-footed to argue that cities are negligent of maintaining pipes, canals and bridges, because there's plenty of that to go around. They can be clogged, crushed or badly engineered, he said. They can fail without man-made rainfall increases. That type of negligence is sometimes accepted by the courts, whereas the idea that cities have failed to prevent floods exacerbated by rising temperatures hasn't been. Not yet anyway.
''I think it will [happen],'' Dubin said. ''Everyone's on notice that the climate is changing, that you're going to experience these problems more often, and that you can't just keep hiding behind the act-of-God defense.''
He was referring to the idea, sometimes offered by defense lawyers, that communities can't plan for every disaster'--because an act of God, legally, can reasonably overwhelm public defenses. But one way that argument could be diluted, Dubin suggested, by the idea that people can also affect the weather.
And it makes sense that it might happen in his neck of the woods.
The Upper Midwest has seen one of the biggest jumps in rainfall nationally, amounting to a 37 percent volume increase in the heaviest downpours since the 1960s. Because the extra rain is present in 1 percent storms, which amounts to roughly the 60 rainiest days in the past 50 years, the added water can tax storm systems built before historical data revealed intensifying precipitation trends, according to scientists and engineers.
A 37 percent increase can add perhaps an inch of rain to an average 1 percent storm, raising the volume of rainfall to about 4 inches, said Kenneth Kunkel, an expert on heavy precipitation at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.
''That's a lot,'' he said. ''We think this is the wave of the future.''
Although scientists describe intensifying rainfall as one of the clearest indications of climate change, there are still vital questions that are unanswered. And they may complicate court cases that claim confidence about increased flooding.
While it's been shown that global increases in precipitation is attributable to man-made warming, scientists don't express the same amount of confidence for regional-level storminess. In part, that's because a lot of local stuff can make the task of discerning the human signal more difficult. In the Midwest, for example, the Great Lakes can fuel the warming atmosphere with more evaporated water, causing more rain. But in the South, where it's already warm, there will be a proportionally smaller jump in evaporation and rain.
Also, more rain does not necessarily align with additional flooding. Alternately, more flooding could occur without climate change. Other things affect the way water courses over land, like infrastructure, the amount of paved areas, the number of buildings, and the extent to which cities are catching and holding the rainfall.
Might a La. case succeed?Bazzo claims that Park Ridge steers its stormwater from a 120-inch pipe into a 60-inch pipe, creating a bottleneck under the road. It then surges up to the surface through storm drains and into the basements of homes in the modest neighborhood. A key reason for this is the expansion of Advocate Hospital, which the lawsuit says is responsible for increasing the amount of rainwater that enters the system. The hospital has a retention pond to hold some water, but Bazzo says additional storage space is needed.
A spokesperson for the hospital declined to comment, and officials with Park Ridge didn't respond to requests for an interview.
''It just overflows,'' Bazzo said of the town's underground tunnels. ''This system has been failing year after year.''
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sophia Hall didn't disagree with that sentiment when she granted the municipalities immunity in April. Instead, she pointed to a state law that prevents local officials from being held responsible for negligence against individual residents when acting on behalf of an entire community. In this case, she interpreted the ''public duty rule'' to include flood control management as a government service that benefits the public at large.
The decision coincided with a different one in Louisiana'--one that legal experts say may be a pathfinder in future climate litigation. After the Army Corps of Engineers negligently maintained the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, floodwater from Hurricane Katrina damaged homes along the 60-year-old canal commonly called MR-GO. A judge with the U.S. Federal Claims Court said last month that constitutes a wrongful taking of private property by the federal government, without just compensation.
It's destined for appeal, but if it's ultimately successful, the case could reverberate in future courts cases that blame government officials for flood damage in a warming era, some observers say. Including cases like the one in Chicago.
''The application of that takings theory to the situation in Chicago would give rise to a very interesting claim of taking,'' said Oliver Houck, a law professor at Tulane University Law School who hadn't before known about Bazzo's case. ''The facts might be parallel.''
Was it climate change or the hospital?To some, accusations of climate inaction are stinging. Debra Shore, one of nine elected commissioners for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, admits that climate change is a challenge. But she says the district is working on it.
It wasn't until 2004 that the district was given oversight for floodwater. Since then it has passed a watershed management ordinance requiring new commercial developments to regulate the amount of stormwater leaving the property. That can slow the flow of rainwater into the area's pipes. The rules went into effect a year ago.
The district is also looking at ways to hold more runoff with things like green infrastructure, additional reservoirs and large cisterns attached to home roof gutters, she said.
''I think there's a changing attitude and a growing awareness of the effect of some development activities on the environment, on stormwater management, on streamwater quality,'' Shore said.
Tzakis says he's waited long enough.
His house has been flooded twice since the lawsuit was filed seven years ago. A storm in 2011 brought a new daily rainfall record, replacing the 2008 mark that overtopped every data point going back to 1870.
He'll be 71 next month, and he said he imagines moving to a high rise, like the one he worked at as a doorman in downtown Chicago for 17 years, or the mountains. But that won't happen without a big win in court.
Tzakis, a Greek immigrant who bought his house for $112,000 in 1994, said he wasn't in a floodplain until construction at the hospital expanded. Now his townhouse is valued at about $90,000, but he doubts it would fetch that much.
He's had his share of misfortunes, Tzakis said, but he won't blame them on climate change.
''No, no, it's the construction that's getting worse,'' he said. ''It's nothing to do with the temperatures. They got to do something. They got to do something. Don't blame the weather.''
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500
Cheap, synthetic 'flakka' dethroning cocaine on Florida drug scene
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 20:49
Wed Jun 10, 2015 3:27pm EDTBy David Adams and Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI (Reuters) - For decades, South Florida has battled drug traffickers who ship boatloads of cocaine from South America. Now the region is dealing with a new epidemic - cheap, synthetic drugs that arrive from China through the mail.
As authorities in the Sunshine State battle with the surge of Alpha-PVP, better known as "flakka" or "gravel," police departments have begun equipping officers with field detection kits, employing sniffer dogs at mail facilities and training patrol units to look for signs of delirium.
The drug's popularity, however, is only growing. In 2014, the first year it appeared in the state, authorities in Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood, recorded 190 incidents involving flakka. By early May of this year, the number of incidents involving the drug had already raced past 275.
"Cocaine was king, until this year," said Detective William Schwartz, a veteran narcotics officer with the Broward County Sheriff's Office.
Unlike cocaine, flakka, is both cheap and accessible. The drug is widely advertised for sale online by Chinese companies and can be shipped in large quantities to U.S. addresses by established global delivery companies. Once it hits the streets, a single dose can sell for as little as $5.
Flakka, which was placed on the U.S. list of illegal controlled substances in 2014, is chemically designed to mimic cathinone, a natural stimulant found in the leaves of the khat plant, chewed traditionally in the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa.
It gets its nickname from the Spanish slang for a slender and attractive woman, and is similar to ecstasy or MDMA, and so-called "Molly." It is sold as small clear crystals that can be popped in the mouth or smoked.
Users are said to feel a sense of super human strength and delirium.
While flakka has also shown up in parts of Ohio, Houston and Chicago, it has made the most substantial U.S. inroads in South Florida, which historically has had one of the country's highest rates of drug use.
Florida's long, contiguous coastline and numerous airports have made the state a leading U.S. entry point for cocaine, heroin and marijuana, mostly funneled from South America through the Caribbean.
"We are ground central," said Robert C. Hutchinson, deputy special agent for Homeland Security Investigations in Miami. "We want to nip it in the bud before it gets out of control."
Synthetic drug seizures - almost all of which is flakka - accounted for 34 percent of Broward's crime lab reports in the first three months of 2015, overtaking cocaine which dropped to 30 percent, Schwartz said.
"That's the first time in my memory that a drug has ever surpassed cocaine," he added. "We are crossing the threshold into a new world."
One kilo, worth $50,000 on the street, can be bought from online companies in China for as little as $1,500, drug experts say.
Law enforcement agencies face big obstacles because flakka is not illegal in China. Manufacturers there typically classify the drug as a legitimate "research chemical," and offer discreet delivery by mail.
Gil Kerlikowske, the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection said China had dramatically increased its criminal investigations into synthetic drugs but its huge ports and vast territory made it harder to tackle.
The Obama administration has raised the issue of flakka in talks with China, according to the U.S. State Department.
What has law enforcement and drug treatment professionals most concerned are flakka's long-term effects. First-time users can take three to four days to return to a normal state of mind, while for repeat users, it could be 14 to 16 days, according to drug treatment professionals.
Dr. Peter Ventre, a psychiatrist at Fort Lauderdale Hospital, said a girl in her early 20s recently suffered symptoms similar to a stroke or brain bleeding after using flakka.
"Now she can't talk, can't recognize anybody and can't walk on her own," he said.
Last month, police in Melbourne, southeast of Orlando, arrested a 17-year-old girl after finding her running down a street naked, covered in blood and screaming "I am god! I am Satan!," according to the police report.
"They're convinced they're being chased by wild animals or people who are trying to kill them," said James Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University.
He said some 27 people have died from flakka-related overdoses in the last eight months in Broward County alone.
"It's the most intense, rapidly emerging drug problem since the 1980s with the emergence of crack cocaine," Hall added.
(Reporting by David Adams and Zachary Fagenson, editing by Jill Serjeant and G Crosse)
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Anti-Russian propaganda appearing in Dutch school textbooks
Tue, 09 Jun 2015 08:23
Several days ago a Dutch parent posted two images from his daughter's school workbook on his facebook page. The schoolbook is "Themes in Social Studies 1 for VMBO-KGT", VMBO standing for "preparatory middle-level vocational education", and is a school track in the Netherlands, which is similar to high school. The schoolbook is provided to VMBO students (aging approx. 15-16 y/o) during the last two years of this school track.Part of the description of the workbook reads, "The workbook is updated on an annual basis and contains many current and diverse sources with assignments." The workbook has certainly been updated, as Russia has been painted as quite an unfriendly country, clearly in line with the ongoing Western anti-Russia propaganda.
The following two images were found on page 67 of the workbook, Chapter 7: countries without democracy. The first image shows Russia as the 'evil' country trying to take Ukraine, while Europe is pictured lending a 'helping' hand. One of the questions students are asked, is: "What is Russia doing, and what is Europe doing in this picture?" Well, that isn't difficult to answer: Evil-looking Russia is obviously trying to devour poor Ukraine, while friendly Europe is looking on concerned!
(C) M. Philipsen
The second image (entitled 'How free is the world?') is that of a map that shows how free (green) or not free (red) a country is. Russia is pictured as a 'not-free country' while the U.S. and Europe in particular are illustrated as the 'most free'.(C) M. Philipsen
What is it, I wonder, that makes these 'educators' think that Russia is a country that isn't free? Could it be the human rights ''problem'' regarding homosexuality in Russia? Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and President Putin actually had a discussion on this matter. Rutte mentioned the laws that prohibit the propagation of homosexuality, which have been put into effect in several Russian regions. According to the Prime Minister this can lead to the limitation of rights for sexual minorities. The president Putin then pointed out that these laws are not being practised on a federal level, but on a regional level. It represents what the people have voted for in those regions. In contrast to the above, Putin reminded Rutte that there are organisations in the Netherlands that support pedophilia:Putin: "I can hardly imagine that a lawyer in Moscow would allow an organisation that supports pedophilia to function. In Holland, however, it is possible. There is such an organisation. I can also hardly imagine that there would be a party in the parliament of our country that would oppose participation of women in political matters. But here there is a party that does so. We just need to learn to listen better to each other, to respect one another, do you understand?
Indeed, just imagine, an organisation appearing in Russia, that supports pedophilia?! If that'd be the case, I think that in certain areas of the Russian Federation, people would get some guns..."
Exactly the reaction most ordinary people in 'the Free West' would have.I'm not quite sure whether I'd define a country that has allowed the establishment of pro-pedophilia organisations, or a political party that opposes the participation of women in politics, to be among the 'most free'. Free to do what, exactly? Abuse children? I'd rather define such a country as being under a regime that is lacking in basic moral fibre, and careless about taking its citizens' best interests at heart.
Meanwhile in Kiev, an LGBT parade has been violently interrupted by radicals supported by the Right Sector. As Kristina Rus states:
With one hand the Ukrainian government is defending the rights and safety of sexual minorities from the radicals, while with the other hand it is arming these same radicals with heavy artillery to murder the children of ethnic minorities in Ukraine, under the unwavering support of Western "beacons of democracy and justice".
This is the kind of regime that the Netherlands, along with its western allies, particularly its 'BFF', the U.S., supports. On May 2, 2014, the Media Relations Office of Canada wrote: "As friends, allies and partners for democracy, human rights and the rule of law, Canada and the Netherlands will continue to work closely to support the Ukrainian people as they move towards elections to establish a peaceful government that respects their democratic rights." A fascist government that promotes the killing of innocent people, and doesn't appear to care much about sexual minorities either - which supposedly is one of the things that PM Rutte finds important - is the 'peaceful' government they've helped to establish in Ukraine.Regarding Russia devouring Ukraine, the truth is opposite to what Dutch children are being taught. As the situation escalated in Ukraine, with many thanks to the Free West in particular, Russia has tried numerous times to ease the situation and has sent many humanitarian convoys to those in need in the country, and continues to do so. In fact:
Since August 2014, Russia has sent over 25,000 tons of humanitarian aid '-- mainly food products, medicine and construction materials '-- to the people in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, who have been suffering from a humanitarian crisis resulting from a military operation launched by Kiev authorities in Donbas in April, 2014.
This type of help appears to be seriously lacking from the West. On the contrary, they appear to be providing lethal arms to Ukraine in order to prolong the 'devouring of Ukraine'.Obviously, a lot more can be said about how the illustrations in this schoolbook are unfounded. They would be laughed about in most other contexts, but when schoolchildren are being primed to take them seriously, the situation is no laughing matter. It's pretty clear that there is only one reason why Russia is put in a bad light here: the mainstream media - on behalf of 'Uncle Sam' - says Russia is evil, and so it is, the message must resound everywhere, regardless of the truth. This serves as a good example of how this godless system the West has created poisons youths' minds, and illustrates how easily Big Lies can be disseminated throughout society.If I was a parent, I'd take a critical look at my children's study material and inform them of what truly goes on on this planet. The school system doesn't allow students to think critically, and rather spoon-feeds 'information' that is not backed up with facts.
G7 leaders agree to phase out fossil fuel use by end of century
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 18:05
G7 leaders, including Angela Merkel (in pink jacket), and invitees line up for the traditional group photo at the end of the summit. Photograph: Sven Hoppe/dpa/Corbis
The G7 leading industrial nations have agreed to cut greenhouse gases by phasing out the use of fossil fuels by the end of the century, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has announced, in a move hailed as historic by some environmental campaigners.
Related:G7 fossil fuel pledge is a diplomatic coup for Germany's 'climate chancellor'
On the final day of talks in a Bavarian castle, Merkel said the leaders had committed themselves to the need to ''decarbonise the global economy in the course of this century''. They also agreed on a global target for limiting the rise in average global temperatures to a maximum of 2C over pre-industrial levels.
Environmental lobbyists described the announcement as a hopeful sign that plans for complete decarbonisation could be decided on in Paris climate talks later this year. But they criticised the fact that leaders had baulked at Merkel's proposal that they should agree to immediate binding emission targets.
As host of the summit, which took place in the foothills of Germany's largest mountain, the Zugspitze, Merkel said the leading industrialised countries were committed to raising $100bn (£65bn) in annual climate financing by 2020 from public and private sources.
In a 17-page communique issued after the summit at Schloss Elmau under the slogan ''Think Ahead, Act Together'', the G7 leaders agreed to back the recommendations of the IPCC, the United Nations' climate change panel, to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions at the upper end of a range of 40% to 70% by 2050, using 2010 as the baseline.
Merkel also announced that G7 governments had signed up to initiatives to work for an end to extreme poverty and hunger, reducing by 2030 the number of people living in hunger and malnutrition by 500 million, as well as improving the global response to epidemics in the light of the Ebola crisis.
Poverty campaigners reacted with cautious optimism to the news.The participant countries '' Germany, Britain, France, the US, Canada, Japan and Italy '' would work on initiatives to combat disease and help countries around the world react to epidemics, including a fund within the World Bank dedicated to tackling health emergencies, Merkel announced at a press conference after the summit formally ended on Monday afternoon.
Reacting to the summit's final declaration, the European Climate Foundation described the G7 leaders' announcement as historic, saying it signalled ''the end of the fossil fuel age'' and was an ''important milestone on the road to a new climate deal in Paris''.
Samantha Smith, a climate campaigner for the World Wildlife Fund, said: ''There is only one way to meet the goals they agreed: get out of fossil fuels as soon as possible.''
The 350.org campaign group put out a direct challenge to Barack Obama to shut down long-term infrastructure projects linked to the fossil fuel industry. ''If President Obama wants to live up to the rhetoric we're seeing out of Germany, he'll need to start doing everything in his power to keep fossil fuels in the ground. He can begin by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline and ending coal, oil and gas development on public lands,'' said May Boeve, the group's director.
Others called on negotiators seeking an international climate deal at Paris later this year to make total decarbonisation of the global economy the official goal.
''A clear long-term decarbonisation objective in the Paris agreement, such as net zero greenhouse gas emissions well before the end of the century, will shift this towards low-carbon investment and avoid unmanageable climate risk,'' said Nigel Topping, the chief executive of the We Mean Business coalition.
Merkel won praise for succeeding in her ambition to ensure climate was not squeezed off the agenda by other pressing issues. Some environmental groups said she had established herself as a ''climate hero''.
German chancellor Angela Merkel's announcement on G7 climate change goalsObservers said she had succeeded where sceptics thought she would not, in winning over Canada and Japan, the most reluctant G7 partners ahead of negotiations, to sign up to her targets on climate, health and poverty.
Iain Keith, campaign director of the online activist network Avaaz, said: ''Angela Merkel faced down Canada and Japan to say 'Auf Wiedersehen' to carbon pollution and become the climate hero the world needs.''
The One campaigning and advocacy organisation called the leaders' pledge to end extreme poverty a ''historic ambition''. Adrian Lovett, its Europe executive director, said: ''These G7 leaders have signed up ... to be part of the generation that ends extreme poverty and hunger by 2030.'' But he warned: ''Schloss Elmau's legacy must be more than a castle in the air.
But the Christian relief organisation World Vision accused the leaders of failing to deliver on their ambitious agenda, arguing they had been too distracted by immediate crises, such as Russia and Greece. ''Despite addressing issues like hunger and immunisation, it was nowhere as near as ambitious as we would have hoped for,'' a spokeswoman said.
Jeremy Farrar of the Wellcome Trust said the proposals would ''transform the resilience of global health systems''. But he said the success of the measures would depend on the effectiveness with which they could be coordinated on a global scale and that required fundamental reform of the World Health Organisation, something the leaders stopped short of deciding on.
''We urge world leaders to consider establishing an independent body within the WHO with the authority and responsibility to deliver this,'' he said.
Merkel, who called the talks ''very work-intensive and productive'' and defended the format of a summit that cost an estimated '¬300m (£220m), said that the participants had agreed to sharpen existing sanctions against Russia if the crisis in Ukraine were to escalate.
She also said ''there isn't much time left'' to find a solution to the Greek global debt crisis but that participants were unanimous in wanting Greece to stay in the eurozone.
Demonstrators, about 3,000 of whom had packed a protest camp in the nearby village of Garmisch Partenkirchen, cancelled the final action that had been planned to coincide with the close of the summit.
At a meeting in the local railway station, the head of Stop G7 Elmau, Ingrid Scherf announced that the final rally would not go ahead ''because we're already walked off our feet''. She denied the claims of local politicians that the group's demonstrations had been a flop. ''I'm not at all disappointed, the turnout was super,'' she said. ''And we also had the support of lots of locals.''
Only two demonstrators were arrested, police said, one for throwing a soup dish, another for carrying a spear.
Additional reporting by Suzanne Goldenberg
So predictable: Real agenda behind FIFA-gate emerges as Russia on verge of being stripped of 2018 Football World Cup
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 18:05
(C) Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty ImagesRussia and Qatar could lose the rights to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups if evidence of bribery is found in the bidding process.
The man responsible for overseeing Fifa's reform process in the current crisis has confirmed that Russia and Qatar may be stripped of their World Cup hosting rights if conclusive new proof of corruption emerges."If evidence should emerge that the awards to Qatar and Russia only came about thanks to bought votes then the awards could be invalidated," said Domenico Scala, the independent chairman of Fifa's audit and compliance committee, in an interview with the Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung. "This evidence has not yet been brought forth."
Scala has made similar comments before but in light of the ongoing Swiss investigation and confirmation that the FBI has now widened its probe to include 2018 and 2022, his intervention takes on a new significance.
New evidence has emerged, meanwhile, alleging that the former Fifa vice president Jack Warner used a $10m payment from Fifa, made on behalf of South African World Cup organisers, for money laundering, personal loans and credit card payments.
The new evidence, obtained by the BBC, appears to show how the 2008 payments from Fifa - ostensibly for a Diaspora Legacy Programme promised by South African World Cup organisers - ended up in accounts controlled by Warner.
JTA Supermarkets, the largest chain in Warner's native Trinidad & Tobago, received $4.8m, according to accounts seen by the BBC.
The US indictment that charged 14 Fifa officials of 47 counts of racketeering and fraud had earlier alleged that Warner "laundered the funds through accounts held in the name of a large supermarket chain and affiliated investment company in Trinidad".
The documents also show $360,000 of the Fifa money was withdrawn by people connected to Warner, who was president of Concacaf for 21 years until he was suspended in 2011. He stepped down from his Fifa position a year later.
Nearly $1.6m was used to pay Warner's credit cards and personal loans, the largest of which was $410,000, according to the BBC.
The new documents show how Warner, implicated down the years in a string of scandals over two decades during which he ran Concacaf as a personal fiefdom alongside the general secretary Chuck Blazer, moved the money around.
Blazer has been cooperating with the FBI since at least 2011, when he was confronted over huge unpaid tax bills on undeclared commission on marketing and TV deals, and pleaded guilty to a string of charges in 2013.
He claimed in his testimony to a US judge, made public last week, that he was bribed in return for his vote on the 2010 World Cup.
(C) AFPHow dare they! Being all friendly...
The $10m payments, revealed in the US indictment, were among the factors that led to the Fifa president Sepp Blatter promising to step down last week.His right-hand man, J(C)r´me Valcke, was revealed to have been told about the payments in letters from the World Cup organiser Danny Jordaan and from the South African Football Association (Safa).
Fifa had earlier claimed "Neither the secretary general J(C)r´me Valcke nor any other member of Fifa's senior management were involved in the initiation, approval and implementation of the project."
In a lengthy statement on Sunday, Safa again insisted that it had devised the programme in good faith and that it had not been created in return for Concacaf's vote in 2004. "It is a shame that this noble effort to support football development has now been turned on its head and camouflaged as a bribe rather than recognising the good that it was intended to deliver to the football programmes of Concacaf," it said.
Warner has continued to deny wrongdoing and in a televised address last week entitled "the gloves are off" he threatened to unveil an "avalanche" of evidence that would show why Blatter had resigned as Fifa president just days after winning a fifth term.
But there were renewed calls in Trinidad & Tobago to explain what he did with the cash and why it was paid.
Brent Sancho, Trinidad & Tobago's sports minister, told the BBC: "I'm devastated because a lot of that money should have been back in football, back in the development of children playing the sport. It is a travesty. Mr Warner should answer the questions."
In a separate development, the Sunday Times has published new claims from a former Fifa executive committee member saying the vote to host the 2010 World Cup was tampered with to ensure South Africa won.
The claims, dating from the newspaper's 2010 investigation that led to the suspension of two Fifa executive committee members ahead of the 2018-22 World Cup vote, allege that Morocco actually won the right to host the tournament ahead of South Africa but the result was altered by Fifa.
The former executive committee member Ismail Bhamjee, from Botswana, stated that following conversations with his fellow voters he had calculated Morocco should have beaten South Africa by two votes in 2004. He acknowledged that his fellow members could have lied to him about who they voted for but claimed that Fifa deliberately tampered with the vote.
"After talking with everybody ... Whose votes went where? We're all colleagues, you know. And then we found out that actually Morocco won by two votes," the Sunday Times reported Bhamjee as saying.
Bhamjee, who resigned from Fifa's executive committee after being implicated in a World Cup ticketing scandal in 2006 and was then suspended in 2010 following the Sunday Times investigation, had also alleged bribery during the 2018-22 race. The Sunday Times says that it supplied the evidence to Fifa five years ago but that it had not acted on it.
Satire: Ted Cruz thinks Texas floods are caused by Native American rain dances
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 18:03
Ted Cruz stirs Indian ire - Texas senator thinks that the Texas floods are caused by Native American rain dances.Preceded by more than a week of heavy rain, a slow-moving storm system dropped tremendous precipitation across much of Texas and Oklahoma during the nights of May 24 - 26, 2015, triggering record-breaking floods. 31 people were killed and 11 people remain missing. There has been great speculation as to the cause of these flash floods, climate change being the most prominent, but today, another was added to the bunch, and it was done so by none other than Senator Ted Cruz.
In a Texas radio interview this morning, when the topic turned to the recent, devastating floods and Senator Cruz was asked to speculate on their cause, this is what he had to say:
These things happen and people attribute it to God, but this is no work of God, this is something sinister and there are obviously other forces at work and they've put our great State in shambles in a very short space of time. And you know scientists will blame it on climate change or mumbo jumbo like that, but I know what's really going on. The heavy rain is obviously caused by Native Americans doing their rain dances and what not, and if we don't address the Native American issue better in this State, we'll be seeing further flooding in years to come
The interviewer Hugh Myrone Gaines, quite startled at Cruz's response, asked him to elaborateMost people know I'm a very spiritual God-fearing man, and if you believe in the grace of God, you also have to believe in the other, what's opposite, what's against God's word. Native Americans have been practicing black magic for centuries and this is no doubt their work. We need to think about the way we view Native Americans and their customs and then maybe we can prevent future floods.
Unsurprisingly, these remarks have drawn ire from the Native American community, with organisations such as TNAC, Texas Native American Community, publically condemning the statement. White Feather, the chieftain of the organisation issued a press statement about the incident:It is disgusting and laughable at the same time, that a US senator would come out and say that Native American customs are the cause of a disastrous flood. It is an insult to our heritage and an all-out loony thing to say. The Native American community has suffered enough and does not need fanciful persecution from people in power.
Whether Cruz's statement will have further political consequences remain to be seen, but one thing is for certain, the Democrats will not leave him alone about this one.
Tea Party Oddsmaker Has Best Campaign Finance Reform Idea Yet (Really)
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 17:56
Liberals always say we need to get money out of politics. But there are three big problems with that: (1) the Supreme Court has made it near-impossible without amending the Constitution; (2) no matter what barriers you erect, money will always find ways to influence politics; and (3) maybe most importantly, politics costs money.
What's truly remarkable about politics in the United States is how little politics there is. A healthy democracy would have political organizers living on every block, a thriving political media, think tanks on local, state and national levels coming up with new policy ideas and publicly funded political campaigns. We have none of that. All of it would cost money.
Yes, the presidential race next year may cost $5 billion. But rather than gasping at that, remember that the U.S. annual gross domestic product is $17 trillion, so $5 billion is about 0.03 percent of our economy. The U.S. is expected to spend $190 billion in 2016 on advertising alone, so $5 billion is only 2.6 percent of that '-- and there's only a presidential race every four years, so a better comparison is to say the presidential election will cost perhaps 0.6 percent of total U.S. advertising in 2016-19.
So the problem isn't that we're spending too much on politics. Instead, it's two problems: we're spending way toolittle, and what money there is is coming from far too few people.
That's why it's good news to see ''The Tea Party Case Against Mega-Donors'' by John Pudner, in which Pudner advocates ''giving average citizens a $200 tax credit for their small campaign contribution to the candidate of their choice.'' Pudner is president of the Take Back Our Republic Action Fund, which tries ''to advance campaign finance reform that empowers voters and encourages higher voter turnout aris[ing] from a conservative, market-based political philosophy.''
A longtime campaign consultant, Pudner was a top strategist for Rep. Dave Brat, who beat then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 Republican primary. He also created the sophisticated basketball ratings and prediction website ValueAddBasketball.com, and according to Breitbart, ''has advised general managers before the NBA Draft.''
Jay Cost, a Weekly Standard staff writer, endorsed Pudner's idea as a possible ''foundation of a privately directed system of public finance.'' He concluded that ''After more than a century of bad campaign finance laws, it is worth a shot.''
To understand the potential scale of this proposal, you have to multiply the number of adult American citizens (about 230 million) by $200, to get $46 billion. With that kind of money flowing into politics, it wouldn't be necessary to try to keep out money from the Koch Brothers (or George Soros); it would simply be swamped by much larger amounts coming from regular people.
It's not hard to see why genuine grassroots conservatives might find this concept appealing. It's simple, straightforward and wouldn't create a big bureaucracy, it's clearly constitutional and it doesn't require the government to make decisions about what constitutes acceptable political speech. Liberals would be wise to start exploring whether this is potential ground for a right-left alliance to drain the stinking swamp of U.S. politics.
(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)
Photo of John Boehner with David Brat and his wife (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 16:50
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Members of a U.N. peacekeeping mission engaged in "transactional sex" with more than 225 Haitian women who said they needed to do so to obtain things like food and medication, a sign that sexual exploitation remains significantly underreported in such missions, according to a new report obtained by The Associated Press.The draft by the Office of Internal Oversight Services looks at the way U.N. peacekeeping, which has about 125,000 people in some of the world's most troubled areas, deals with the persistent problem of sexual abuse and exploitation.The report, expected to be released this month, says major challenges remain a decade after a groundbreaking U.N. report first tackled the issue.Among its findings: About a third of alleged sexual abuse involves minors under 18. Assistance to victims is "severely deficient." The average investigation by OIOS, which says it prioritizes cases involving minors or rape, takes more than a year.And widespread confusion remains on the ground about consensual sex and exploitation. To help demonstrate that, investigators headed to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.A year ago, the report says, investigators interviewed 231 people in Haiti who said they'd had transactional sexual relationships with U.N. peacekeepers. "For rural women, hunger, lack of shelter, baby care items, medication and household items were frequently cited as the `triggering need,'" the report says. Urban and suburban women received "church shoes,' cell phones, laptops and perfume, as well as money."In cases of non-payment, some women withheld the badges of peacekeepers and threatened to reveal their infidelity via social media," the report says. "Only seven interviewees knew about the United Nations policy prohibiting sexual exploitation and abuse." None knew about the mission's hotline to report it.Each of those instances of transactional sex, the report says, would be considered prohibited conduct, "thus demonstrating significant underreporting." It was not clear how many peacekeepers were involved.For all of last year, the total number of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against members of all U.N. peacekeeping missions was 51, down from 66 the year before, according to the secretary-general's latest annual report on the issue.The draft report doesn't say over what time frame the "transactional sex" in Haiti occurred. The peacekeeping mission there was first authorized in 2004 and, as of the end of March, had more than 7,000 uniformed troops. It is one of four peacekeeping missions that have accounted for the most allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation in recent years, along with those in Congo, Liberia and South Sudan.One of the U.N. staffers who produced the report would not comment Tuesday, saying it was better to wait until it was released publicly. A spokesman for the peacekeeping office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.The U.N. doesn't have a standing army and relies on troops contributed by member states. The states are responsible for investigating alleged misconduct by their troops, though the U.N. can step in if there's no action.In their response to the report's findings, which is included in the draft, U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous and field support chief Atul Khare point out that while the number of peacekeepers has increased dramatically over the past decade, the number of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation have gone down.The U.N. prohibits "exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex," and it strongly discourages sexual relationships between U.N. staff and people who receive their assistance, saying they are "based on inherently unequal power dynamics" and undermine the world body's credibility.But that has led to some confusion on the ground, the new report says, with some members of peacekeeping missions seeing that guidance as a ban on all sexual relationships with local people. The report says the guidelines need to be clarified."Staff with long mission experience states that was a `general view that people should have romantic rights' and raised the issue of sexuality as a human right," the report says.
Turkey elections: Erdogan's party loses majority as pro-Kurdish party enters parliament for 1st time
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 15:57
(C) Reuters / Yagiz KarahanAn election official empties a ballot box at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Istanbul, Turkey, June 7, 2015
Early results in Turkey's parliamentary election have shown that the ruling party will fall short of a majority and for the first time in 12 years have to form a coalition, spoiling President Tayyip Erdogan's hopes of sweeping constitutional changes.Preliminary results, with over 99 percent of votes counted, suggest the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has garnered some 41 percent of the votes, a loss of 9 percentage points, netting it about 258 seats in the country's 550-seat Grand National Assembly. The data comes from Turkey's NTV channel, citing the central electoral committee.
The polls opened at 8 a.m. local time (5 a.m. GMT) on Sunday and closed at 5 p.m. local time (2 p.m. GMT).
While the official results are to be presented in 11-12 days, preliminary results indicate that three opposition parties have passed 10 percent barrier necessary to enter parliament, and that to form a government the AKP will have to enter a coalition with one of them.
The Republican People's Party (CHP) has preliminarily garnered about 25 percent of the vote (a rise of 4 percentage points), taking about 130 seats in parliament. Ahead of the voting, the party pledged to limit the president's influence over the judiciary and executive branches.
Among other things, it has promised to make Turkey an EU member, and push for an independent and pluralistic media.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) took about 17 percent of the vote (an increase of 3 percentage points), claiming a little over 80 seats. During the election campaign, the party said it would refrain from reforming the parliamentary system or media freedoms, something that Erdogan's party has been craving for.
In another highlight of Sunday's election, the Kurdish-linked People's Democratic Party (HDP) has about 13 percent of the vote so far. This is first time a pro-Kurdish party has managed to get into parliament.
The HDP's election campaign has been marred by tension and violence, with over 70 attacks on party supporters reported during the party's campaign events. On Friday, two blasts hit an HDP rally in the city of Diyarbakir, killing two people.
"Based on initial election results, we are on the verge of entering parliament and winning 80 seats,"HDP lawmaker Sirri Sureyya Onder told a press conference in Ankara.
"This is the collective victory of all the oppressed people of Turkey. We will stand by all our pre-electoral pledges," HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas said, local media reported.
The HDP is relatively new to Turkish politics. It was founded in 2012 as the political wing of a union of several left-wing groups. Those include proponents of women's and gay rights, secularists, anti-capitalists and environmentalists involved in the Gezi Park protests.
Erdogan has accused the HDP of being a front for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which took up arms in 1984 in an insurgency that killed 40,000 people.
"I believe the results, which do not give the opportunity to any party to form a single-party government, will be assessed healthily and realistically by every party," President Tayyip Erdogan said Monday.The AKP had hoped to make changes to the constitution that would transfer more executive powers to the president. Erdogan is the founder and former leader of the AKP. Before assuming the presidency in 2014, he served three terms as the country's prime minister.
Prior to the election, the AKP held 327 seats in the parliament.
The election outcome for the AKP is significantly lower than the party was hoping for. It had hoped to win 330 seats, which would have allowed it to put any changes to the country's constitution to a referendum without the need for votes from other parties. A total of 367 seats or more would allow it to change the constitution without needing a referendum at all. However, if AKP gets fewer than 276 seats, it will have to form a coalition to rule, making constitution changes a remote prospect.
(C) Reuters/Osman OrsalSupporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) celebrate along a street after the parliamentary election in Diyarbakir, Turkey, June 7, 2015
With these results, the AKP expects "a minority government and early election," Reuters quoted a senior party official who spoke on condition of anonymity as saying.The co-chair of the pro-Kurdish HDP has already said that his party will never form a coalition with Erdogan's AKP.
"Discussions about the president's executive powers and dictatorship have come to an end with this election," Selahattin Demirtas said.
The leader of rightist MHP, Devlet Bahceli, declared that his party was ready to strike a deal with the AKP if the pro-Kurdish HDP does not enter a government coalition. Bahceli said that if no coalition is formed, new elections should be called.
One of the major points of contention between the parties is the amount of power the president is supposed to have. AKP believes that Turkey needs to strengthen the presidency and the executive branch and move towards an executive presidential system from the current parliamentary one. CHP would like to see presidential powers over the judiciary restricted and believes the executive branch should have limited power. MHP thinks the parliament itself should sort out any problems with the current parliamentary system, and that increasing the power of the executive branch is unnecessary and undesirable. Both CHP and HDP want to shut down the president's discretionary fund, which was introduced last March.
The reform and independence of the justice system is also a major issue. AKP is pushing for a greater role of parliament in senior judicial and appeal court appointments and proposes reforming procedures in higher courts via a constitutional change. The opposition parties, meanwhile, want to prevent political influence on the judiciary branch, and stop the Justice Minister from selecting members for the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors.
With regard to press freedoms, the CHP has promised to make the state broadcaster TRT autonomous, while HDP has spoken about democratically reforming the broadcasting regulator, RTUK, to make it less conservative.
As to women's issues, HDP has called for the creation of a Ministry of Women to fight male domination and violence. In turn, MHP said it will raise awareness of the abuse faced by the Turkish women, while AKP has promoted a "zero tolerance" policy for violence towards women and encouraged higher fertility rates.
Only the Islamist SP/BBP block directly opposes EU membership for Turkey, while CHP boldly promises to make the country a full EU member state.
Saudi Arabia hosts UN-backed human rights summit 'on combating religious discrimination'
Mon, 08 Jun 2015 07:42
The kingdom convened the fifth annual meeting of the Istanbul Process as its Supreme Court prepared to rule on the case of blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for ''insulting Islam through religious channels''. It later upheld the sentence.
The UN HRC recently faced criticism over Saudi plans to head up the council from 2016, in what critics said would be the ''final nail in the coffin'' for the international body.
And the Geneva-based human rights campaign group UN Watch accused HRC president Joachim R¼cker of giving ''false international legitimacy'' to the two-day conference on religious freedoms held in Jeddah on 3 and 4 June.
According to a report in the Saudi Gazette, the participants in the conference ''began with an agreement to put [HRC] resolution 16/18 into effect'' '' a pledge by all member states to combat ''intolerance and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief''.
''In addition, participants agreed on the importance on providing human rights education and encouraging religious and cultural diversity in communities.''
Invited to make the opening statement at the conference, Mr R¼cker told the summit: ''Religious intolerance and violence committed in the name of religion rank among the most significant human rights challenges of our times.''
But Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said: ''It's bad enough that the oppressive and fundamentalist Saudi monarchy was elected to sit on the UN Human Rights Council.
''But for top UN human rights officials to now visit Jeddah and smile while human rights activist Raif Badawi languishes in prison for the crime of religious dissent, still under threat of further flogging, is to pour salt in the wounds. It's astonishing.''
Obama: More G7 sanctions against Russia if Ukraine conflict continues
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 15:53
(C) Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
The G7 states are ready to implement additional Russia sanctions over Ukraine, US President Barack Obama said at the G7 summit in Bavaria on Monday."There is strong consensus that we need to keep pushing Russia to abide by the Mink agreement," Obama said. He added that the Western partners also need to encourage Kiev to stick to the Minsk deal.
"There was discussion of additional steps," if Russia "doubles the aggression on Ukraine", however they were on a technical and not political level, he added.
"Our hope is that we don't have to take additional steps," he said.
Obama said that the sanctions are hurting the Russian economy. He added that President Vladimir Putin would have to make a decision.
"Does he continue to wreck his country's economy and continue Russia's isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to recreate glories of the Soviet empire, or does he recognize that Russia's greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?" Obama said.G7 leaders said it joint communique "that the duration of sanctions should be clearly linked to Russia's complete implementation of the Minsk agreements and respect for Ukraine's sovereignty."Investigative journalist Tony Gosling told RT that it seems Western politicians are being driven by the US into rhetoric about uniting against Russia."This is our old Cold War talk, that is really driven by the Americans, and it certainly does not represent the views of European people or business, which is a bit worrying," he said.
Tens of thousands of teen girls suffer serious illnesses after HPV cervical cancer jab
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 15:52
TENS of thousands of teenage girls have fallen seriously ill and even been left wheelchair-bound after taking the routine cervical cancer vaccination.The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency announced that 8,228 young girls had suffered debilitating side effects from the HPV injection.However, the number is estimated to be only ten per cent of the true number of teens struck down with severe side effects after taking the vaccine.
The jab has been routinely administered to 12-year-old and 13-year-old girls in Britain since 2008. The injection blocks the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus which leads to most cervical cancer cases.
Otherwise healthy school-aged girls have reportedly suffered chest and abdominal pains, exhaustion, breathing difficulties, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, which triggers an abnormally high heart rate, and fibromyalgia, which causes chronic pain throughout the body.
In more than a quarter of the cases, the effects have apparently been so severe that they were considered 'life-threatening' and required immediate medical treatment.
The concern over the injection is not new.
The Japanese health ministry has previously warned against the vaccination while European countries are continuing to re-evaluate its use.
Previously, links with infertility and early menopause have also been explored.
More than eight million people in the UK have been given the vaccination despite the ongoing links with grave conditions.
Jackie Fletcher, of the pressure group Jabs, said: "Previously fit and healthy young girls have developed seizures or viral fatigue, some have lost the ability to walk. And years on, some have still not recovered."
In a recent article in the Clinical Rheumatology journal Dr Martinez-Lavin wrote that although the HPV injection has been 'one of the most effective public health measures in the history of medicine', the level of side effects reported compared to other routine vaccinations is a growing concern.
In fact, the total number of illnesses associated with the HPV jab tops the number of side-effects reported in all other routine health programmes combined.In light of their own report, the UK's MHRA has continued to claim that there were no 'major safety concerns' associated with the jab.
The watchdog insisted that the vaccine can save nearly half of the 1,000 women who die from the killer disease every year. It is the second most common cancer afflicting women under-35.
The agency maintains that the link with serious illnesses remains unproven while NHS asserts that the HPV vaccination programme has proven 'very effective'.
Hundreds of Bikers Protest Arrests in Waco, Texas | TheBlot
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 15:48
Some 500 bikers rallied in front of a Waco courthouse on Sunday to protest the detention of 170 fellow bikers following a gang-related shootout in May. Above, a composite of mugshots of individuals arrested as part of a crackdown on biker gangs in Waco. (Photos courtesy McLennan Sheriff's Department)
Hundreds of demonstrators, mostly bikers, gathered outside a courthouse in Waco, Texas, on Sunday to protest against the arrests of hundreds of people following a deadly shootout last month that killed nine people and injured more than a dozen others.
At the ''First Amendment and Redress Rally,'' some waved American and Confederate flags while others displayed signs that read ''We Are Not Criminals'' and ''Biker Lives Matter,'' The Guardian reported. Others who were not bikers came armed with rifles, something that is legal in Texas.
Police arrested 177 individuals '-- again, mostly bikers '-- following a deadly shootout between rival gangs outside the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco on May 17. Law enforcement had been at the restaurant after receiving intelligence that the gangs were going to meet earlier in the day.
Read more: Dissolving ATF Could Keep Americans Safer from Gun ViolenceOfficers initially stood watch when the fight broke out, taking action only when gang members began shooting at each other. In total, nine bikers were killed and 17 others injured. Police have not commented on how many of those bikers were killed by fellow gang members and how many were shot by responding officers.
The Twin Peaks restaurant had been uncooperative with law enforcement leading up to the incident, officials said. Police later recovered more than 300 weapons from inside the restaurant. The Waco location of the Texas-based chain was eventually closed after corporate managers said Twin Peaks would be withdrawing its franchise license.
Of the original 177 arrested, 102 remained in police custody, a law enforcement official told The Guardian. Most of the men had their bails set at more than $1 million following charges that ranged from organized crime to capital murder. Capital murder charges can come with a death sentence in Texas.Joe Miller, a 64-year-old biker who was near the Twin Peaks restaurant the day of the shootout, told The Guardian that he came to the rally to protest what he considered to be an overreaction by police.
''Arrest them, take their bikes?'' Miller questioned. ''The bike is their love. They need to get their due process a bit quicker.''
The shootout happened between two feuding biker gangs: The Bandidos and the Cossacks. Both have Texas origins dating back to the late 1960s, with the Bandidos formed first.
''Texas is their state,'' Terry Katz, the vice president of a biker investigator group, told The New York Times last month. ''They are the big dogs of Texas.''
The Cossacks formed a few years later and refused to ''bow down'' to the Bandidos, sparking a rivalry, Katz said.
Following the shootout last month, both sides reportedly called for reinforcement from other states, according to law enforcement bulletins that circulated within days. Police were prepared for the possibility that the gangs would retaliate against each other in response to the shooting.
Instead, several rallies have been held in the weeks after, mainly to protest the treatment of the dozens of bikers who remain in jail unable to afford the high bail set by the judges overseeing their cases.
''They say we're the land of the free,'' Mark Martinez, a New Mexico biker who travelled to Waco to participate in the Sunday rally, told The Guardian. ''I'm not just here because I ride a motorcycle. I'm here for the people.''
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.
About Matthew KeysMatthew Keys is a California-based independent journalist who covers global current events for TheBlot Magazine with a focus on policy, tech and security. He previously worked at Thomson Reuters in New York City. He can be reached by phone, e-mail and on social media here.
Obama's Gun-Control Misfire - WSJ
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 14:33
Last September the Obama administration produced an FBI report that said mass shooting attacks and deaths were up sharply'--by an average annual rate of about 16% between 2000 and 2013. Moreover, the problem was worsening. ''The findings establish an increasing frequency of incidents,'' said the authors. ''During the first 7 years included in the study, an average of 6.4 incidents occurred annually. In the last 7 years of the study, that average increased to 16.4 incidents annually.''
The White House could not possibly have...
HSBC to cut up to 50,000 jobs worldwide, withdraw operations from Brazil, Turkey - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 14:27
Updated June 09, 2015 20:36:59
Scandal-hit bank HSBC has announced it would cut its global headcount by up to 50,000 as part of a restructuring that entails its withdrawal from Brazil and Turkey, while it also mulls abandoning London as its headquarters.
In a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange, the bank said it intends to save $5 billion in annual costs within two years.
The announcement comes ahead of an investor update later on Tuesday in which chief executive Stuart Gulliver is expected to announce thousands of job losses.
"HSBC is now undertaking a significant reshaping of its business portfolio," the bank, which this year marks its 150th anniversary, said.
"It is redeploying resources to capture expected future growth opportunities and adapting to structural changes in the operating climate."
The statement did not mention extensive job cuts, the details of which were buried in an investor update report.
That report said there would be a 10 per cent reduction in jobs, with between 22,000 and 25,000 classified under "transformation savings", including streamlining IT projects.
A further 25,000 jobs would be lost with the selling of operations in Turkey and Brazil.
"We recognise that the world has changed and we need to change with it," Mr Gulliver said.
"That is why we are outlining ... actions that will further transform our organisation."
Mr Gulliver also confirmed the job losses would include between 7,000 and 8,000 positions in Britain, where its retail bank will be rebranded and relocated from London to Birmingham by 2019.
'Unrivalled' global position, says CEOThe move is the latest in a series of swingeing cuts under Mr Gulliver, who joined at the beginning of 2011.
Staff numbers have dropped from 295,000 in 2010 to a projection of 208,000 by 2017.
"HSBC has an unrivalled global position: access to high growth markets; a diversified universal banking model with strong funding and a low risk profile; and strong internal capital generation with industry leading dividends, " Mr Gulliver said.
HSBC added that it would aim to save $US4.5 to $US5 billion in annual costs by the end of 2017 but would continue to serve large corporate clients in Brazil with respect to their international needs.
The bank added that it would focus more on Asia, particularly the Pearl River Delta, and set up a ring-fenced British bank.
It also expects to complete a review of where to locate its headquarters by the end of this year.
Mr Gulliver has said the lender may relocate due to increased British regulation and taxation of the banking sector.
London mayor Boris Johnson urged the bank not to move.
"This is why I urge people not to bash banks. They are huge employers in our city," he told local radio.
Move to Hong Kong HQ 'likely', analysts sayFinancial analyst and associate director for Simsen Financial Group Jackson Wong described Tuesday's announcement as a "decisive move".
"It's a big cut ...(but) they haven't been able to save costs over the past few years," Mr Wong said.
He added the bank was likely to relocate its headquarters to Hong Kong, owing to its low tax regime.
"The chance is pretty high for Hong Kong," he said.
But analyst Francis Lun said the cuts may be too severe.
"They may have overdone it. If you cut the jobs any further ... you cannot get the job done," he said.
Swiss prosecutors on Thursday closed an investigation into allegations HSBC's Geneva branch helped clients evade millions of dollars in taxes, after it agreed to pay $56 million in compensation.
Geneva authorities opened the probe in February following the publication of secret documents claiming the bank assisted many wealthy clients in thwarting the taxman.
Last year, it was separately fined by US and British regulators for attempting to rig foreign exchange markets.
Topics:business-economics-and-finance, banking, fraud-and-corporate-crime, united-kingdom, brazil, turkey
First posted June 09, 2015 18:00:50
World Series of Poker win extends Phil Hellmuth's record - Yahoo Sports
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 14:26
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Phil Hellmuth - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 14:25
Phillip Jerome Hellmuth, Jr. (born July 16, 1964) is an American professional poker player who has captured a record fourteen World Series of Poker bracelets. He is the winner of the Main Event of the 1989 World Series of Poker (WSOP) and the Main Event of the 2012 World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE), and he is a member of the WSOP's Poker Hall of Fame. Hellmuth is also known for his temperamental "poker brat" personality.
Personal lifeHellmuth was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin''Madison for three years before dropping out to play poker full-time.
Since 1992, he has lived in Palo Alto, California with his wife Katherine Sanborn (a psychiatrist at Stanford University) and their two sons Philip III and Nicholas.
TournamentsAs of March 2015, his total live tournament winnings is $18,282,014. He is ranked seventh on the all-time money list. Hellmuth is known for usually taking his seat at poker tournaments long after they begin. On March 4, 2015, Hellmuth is ranked #207 on the Global Poker Index. (He has been ranked as high as #4 in December 2012.)
World Series of PokerIn 1989, the 24-year-old Hellmuth became the youngest player to win the Main Event of the WSOP by defeating the two-time defending champion Johnny Chan in heads up play; his record has since been broken twice, by Peter Eastgate in 2008 and Joe Cada in 2009. Hellmuth holds the records for most WSOP cashes (108) and most WSOP final tables (52), overtaking T. J. Cloutier.
As of March 2015, Hellmuth has won over $12,000,000 at the WSOP and ranks fourth on the WSOP All Time Money List, behind Antonio Esfandiari, Daniel Colman, and Daniel Negreanu. Hellmuth also is tied for fifth all time in number of times cashed in the WSOP Main Event. He has seven Main Event cashes (1988, 1989, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2008, and 2009), placing him behind Berry Johnston (10), and Humberto Brenes, Doyle Brunson, and Bobby Baldwin (9).
Twelve of Hellmuth's thirteen bracelets have been in Texas hold'em, though he has had quite a bit of success in non-hold'em events. As of the start of the 2015 World Series, 22 of his 52 final tables are for a variety of games, including 2-7 Lowball, Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo, Seven Card Razz, and Omaha hold'em (Pot Limit, Limit, and Hi-Lo), as well as mixed gamed like H.O.R.S.E and the Poker Player's Championship; his first-ever WSOP final table (and first-ever WSOP cash) was in Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo in 1988, and his second-ever WSOP final table (and third-ever WSOP cash) was in Pot Limit Omaha hold'em w/Rebuys in 1989. (His third-ever WSOP final table (and fifth-ever WSOP cash) was his Main Event victory in 1989.) Of those 22 events, Hellmuth has finished runner-up six times.
World Series of Poker braceletsYearTournamentPrize (US$/EU'¬)1989$10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship$755,0001992$5,000 Limit Hold'em$168,0001993$1,500 No Limit Hold'em$161,4001993$2,500 No Limit Hold'em$173,0001993$5,000 Limit Hold'em$138,0001997$3,000 Pot Limit Hold'em$204,0002001$2,000 No Limit Hold'em$316,5502003$2,500 Limit Hold'em$171,4002003$3,000 No Limit Hold'em$410,8602006$1,000 No Limit Hold'em with rebuys$631,8632007$1,500 No Limit Hold'em$637,2542012$2,500 Seven-Card Razz$182,7932012E'¬10,450 No Limit Hold'em Main Event'¬1,022,3762015$10,000 Seven-Card Razz$271,105At the 1993 World Series of Poker, Hellmuth became the second player in WSOP history to win three bracelets in one WSOP. (Walter "Puggy" Pearson was the first to do so in 1973; one of those bracelets was for winning the Main Event.) Hellmuth's three victories came in three consecutive days; incredibly, Ted Forrest also won three bracelets in three consecutive days at the 1993 WSOP to became the third player in WSOP history to win three bracelets in one WSOP. (Since then, three other players have won three WSOP bracelets in a single year: Phil Ivey in 2002, Jeffrey Lisandro in 2009, and George Danzer in 2014. (Danzer's third WSOP bracelet of 2014 was won in the 2014 World Series of Poker Asia Pacific.))
At the 1997 World Series of Poker, Hellmuth won his 5th bracelet of the decade. At the conclusion of the 1999 World Series of Poker, his five bracelets would stand to lead the decade for most WSOP bracelets won by one player in the 1990s.
At the 2006 World Series of Poker, Hellmuth captured his 10th World Series of Poker bracelet in the $1,000 No Limit Hold'em with rebuys event. At the time, it tied him with Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan for most bracelets. At the 2007 World Series of Poker, Hellmuth won his record-breaking 11th bracelet in the $1,500 No Limit Hold'em Event.
Hellmuth's sponsor arranged for him to arrive at the 2007 WSOP Main Event in a race car. Hellmuth lost control of the car in the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino parking lot and hit a light fixture. He gave up the car for a limo, arriving at the Main Event two hours late.
At the 2008 WSOP Main Event Hellmuth verbally abused another player and received a one-round penalty. After a private meeting with WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack the penalty was overruled and Hellmuth finished the tournament in 45th place.
In the 2011 World Series of Poker, Phil finished second in three tournaments, in the 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship, the Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship, and The Poker Player's Championship eight-game mix.
On June 11, 2012, Hellmuth won his 12th World Series of Poker bracelet in the $2,500 Seven-Card Razz event, defeating Don Zewin and earning $182,793. Zewin had finished third to Chan and Hellmuth when Hellmuth won his first bracelet in 1989. This is the first bracelet Hellmuth has won in a non-hold'em event, and made him the first player to win at least one bracelet in each of the last four decades, and only the third player in WSOP history to win a bracelet in four different decades (Jay Heimowitz won 6 bracelets, spanning the 1970s through the 2000s, and Billy Baxter won 7 bracelets, also spanning the 1970s through the 2000s). Hellmuth also collected $2,645,333 for his fourth place finish in the $1,000,000 buy-in "Big One for One Drop" tournament, by far the largest single cash of his career.
On October 4, 2012, Hellmuth won his 13th World Series of Poker bracelet in the '¬10,450 WSOPE No Limit Hold'em Main Event, earning '¬1,022,376 ($1,333,841) and becoming the first player to ever win both the WSOP and WSOPE Main Events. This win also made Hellmuth the first player in WSOP history to win multiple bracelets in three different years (1993 (3), 2003 (2), and 2012 (2)). Also, Hellmuth finished runner-up in the WSOP Player of the Year race for a record third time (2006, 2011, and 2012).
World Poker TourHellmuth has cashed 13 times and made four final tables in WPT events. He finished fourth in the $3,000 No Limit Hold'em WPT Event at the 3rd Annual 49'er Gold Rush Bonanza in 2002 and 3rd in the $10,000 No Limit Hold'em WPT Event at the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods in 2003 and at the 2008 WPT L.A. Poker Classic Hellmuth finished in sixth place earning $229,480 in a final table that included both Phil Ivey and Nam Le. He also played in two WPT Invitational Events, the World Poker Tour by The Book in 2004 and the WPT Bad Boys of Poker II in 2006 and finished third both times. In March 2010 Hellmuth made the final table in the $10,000 Shooting Star Event at the Bay 101 Casino second in chips only to bust out in sixth place when his QQ was cracked by AJ on the river. He earned $117,000 for his efforts. In April he was the TV bubble boy finishing seventh at the $25,000 WPT World Championship. The finish gave Hellmuth over $152,000 for the tournament and made him the 122nd player to win a million dollars in WPT events. As of May 2010, Hellmuth had won $1,106,345 in WPT tournaments.
Other notable tournamentsHellmuth makes regular appearances on episodes of Poker After Dark, both as a player and as a drop-in commentator. Hellmuth won his first Poker After Dark tournament in the first episode of the third season, winning a net $100,000. Hellmuth returned two weeks later and claimed his second Poker After Dark title, winning another $100,000. Hellmuth is the season 3 champion of Late Night Poker.
In 2000 he won the Poker EM 7-Card Stud Main Event in Austria, billed the largest 7-Card Stud tournament in the world. Phil defeated 437 other players to win $106,250. In 2005, Hellmuth won the first National Heads-Up Poker Championship. He defeated Men Nguyen, Paul Phillips, Huck Seed, Lyle Berman and Antonio Esfandiari on the way to the final against Chris Ferguson whom he defeated in two out of three games. While trying to repeat in 2006, he lost in the first round to Chip Reese. In 2007, Hellmuth did not play due to the PartyPoker.com Premier League Poker, a British tournament in which he took part. He won four out of his six group matches and eventually finished third in the finals. Hellmuth took part in the 2008 National Heads-Up Poker Championship, losing in the first round to Tom Dwan. In 2013, Hellmuth finished in second place, losing to Mike Matusow in the final and earning $300,000.
Other activitiesHellmuth appeared in seasons 1, 4 and 6 of GSN's cash game show, High Stakes Poker. Hellmuth was involved with creating the software for UltimateBet and was formerly a member of Team UB.
Hellmuth has made several instructional poker videos, including his Ultimate White To Black Belt Course and Phil Hellmuth's Million Dollar Poker System. He has written for Cardplayer magazine and authored several poker books including Play Poker like the Pros,Bad Beats and Lucky Draws,The Greatest Poker Hands ever Played, and Poker Brat. Hellmuth published the book Deal Me In: 20 Of The World's Top Poker Players Share The Heartbreaking and Inspiring Stories of How They Turned Pro. In May 2004 Hellmuth partnered with Oasys Mobile to create a mobile app called Texas Hold'em by Phil Hellmuth. In spring 2006, Hellmuth replaced Phil Gordon as commentator on Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown. Hellmuth is a poker coach on Fox Sports Network's Best Damn Poker Show. Hellmuth launched an online, poker gear, retail store.
Personality and controversyPhil Hellmuth is known for his "Poker Brat" personality, especially after taking bad beats. In the first week of Poker After Dark on NBC, Hellmuth asked fellow pros Shawn Sheikhan, Steve Zolotow, Gus Hansen and Huck Seed to stop talking while it was his turn to act on his hand after Annie Duke raised him. They initially complied, but when Hellmuth began to talk, he was mocked by Seed, who said, "please be quiet so I can talk," eliciting laughter from the other players. Hellmuth then threatened never to play on the show again and walked off the set. After the show's producers intervened, Hellmuth returned and was eliminated a few hands later by Sheikhan. Duke remained quiet while the drama played out, though in a later interview, she described Hellmuth's behavior as "one of the biggest overreactions I have ever seen."
On Day 5 of the 2008 WSOP, Hellmuth folded A' K'¥ to Cristian Dragomir's bet on a flop of 9'£ 10'£ 7' . Asked by the table to show his hand, Dragomir revealed that he had called Hellmuth's pre-flop re-raise with 10'... 4'..., a much weaker hand. Hellmuth proceeded to call Dragomir an "idiot," among other insults, and was eventually issued a warning by the floorperson for continued berating of another player. Other players including his friend Mike Matusow advised him to stop. Nonetheless, he continued to verbally abuse Dragomir until receiving a one-round penalty. The penalty was to be carried out at the beginning of play the next day. After Hellmuth had a private meeting with WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack, Pollack overruled the floorperson's penalty. Hellmuth finished the tournament in 45th place, while Dragomir finished in 29th.
On December 20, 2008 Hellmuth was playing $200/$400 heads up limit hold em on UltimateBet, where he was at the time a spokesman, when an apparent software glitch occurred. The $5599 pot was awarded to Hellmuth, even though he held the worst hand. (His opponent held K'... Q'¥ for Three Kings and Hellmuth held 10x 2x for two pair.) This hand became the subject of considerable controversy in online forums due to Hellmuth's later comments about the hand. Immediately after the other player informed him of the error in awarding the pot, Hellmuth simply commented, "You wanna play or what?" and "I play U limit, right now." In addition, when later questioned about the hand, Hellmuth commented that he had experienced such errors a hundred times in his online career, "maybe 50 the wrong way to them and 50 the wrong way to me." (This contradicted the official statement of Ultimatebet that no other cases of this error had been found.) Finally, the previous cheating scandal at Ultimatebet led to suspicions about the plausibility of the company's explanation for the computer bug that they claim caused the error.
BibliographyReferences^"Record 11th bracelet". [dead link]^"Hellmuth, Enright Inducted into Poker Hall of Fame". Cardplayer.com. 2007-07-06. Retrieved 2009-03-31. ^ abCahlik, Josh; Donnie Peters (2012-10-04). "Phil Hellmuth Wins 2012 World Series of Poker Europe Main Event; Watson Wins High Roller". PokerNews.com. Retrieved 2012-10-05. ^Jon Bartels, "Poker Ace", On Wisconsin Alumni Magazine, Fall 1992.^ abc"Phil Hellmuth Jr". Hendon Mob Poker Database. TheHendonMob.com. Retrieved 2012-07-14. ^"All Time Money List, Top 1000:". Hendon Mob Poker Database. thehendonmob.com. Retrieved 2012-07-14. ^Saric, Marko (2010-07-13). "Phil Hellmuth: Latest entry to a poker tournament in history". Party Poker. Retrieved 2011-07-11. ^"Hellmuth's GPI profile". ^"WSOP cashes". Hendon Mob Poker Database. thehendonmob.com. ^World Series of Poker Earnings, www.worldseriesofpoker.com^"Player Info, Winnings & Bracelets". World Series of Poker. Retrieved 2011-07-28. ^"Hellmuth poker victories". Hendon Mob Poker Database. thehendonmob.com. ^"Hellmuth wins 10th bracelet". about.com. 2006-07-26. Retrieved 2009-03-31. ^"Hellmuth wins 11th bracelet". foxsports.com. [dead link]^"WSOP Updates, $10,000 Main Event, Day 1d". Pokernews.com. Retrieved 2009-03-31. ^STING (2007-07-14). "Phil Hellmuth Car Crash Raises More Questions Than Answers". Gambling911.com. Retrieved 2009-03-31. ^"WSOP Event 54, Day 5". WorldSeriesofPoker.com. Retrieved 2009-03-31. ^ ab"WSOP Event 54, Day 6". WorldSeriesofPoker.com. Retrieved 2009-03-31. ^ ab"WSOP Event 54". WorldSeriesofPoker.com. Retrieved 2012-12-14. ^WPT bio Retrieved 9th March 2009^"Late Night Poker winners". gamble.co.uk. ^"Hellmuth wins NHUPC". pokerpages.com. ^"Hellmuth can't defend". vegastexasholdem.net. ^"Hellmuth schedule". philhellmuth.com. ^"High Stakes Poker Featuring a $100,000 Minimum Buy-In Premieres on GSN". gsn.com. [dead link]^"Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke Leave Ultimate Bet". TightPoker.com. 2010-12-31. Retrieved 2011-07-28. ^"Wireless Developer Network". Wirelessdevnet.com. 2006-07-25. Retrieved 2009-03-31. ^"Hellmuth replaces Gordon on Bravo". Sports.espn.go.com. 2006-03-23. Retrieved 2009-03-31. ^"Phil Hellmuth's Blog". Philhellmuth.com. 2007-01-04. Retrieved 2009-03-31. ^Poker After Dark: Best Of, NBC, original airdate June 28, 2009.^"WSOP Event 54, Day 5". WorldSeriesofPoker.com. Retrieved 2009-03-31. ^"ultimatepokershow, December 28, 2008". Retrieved 2009-03-31. ^"Tokwiro Enterprises, "Winning Hand Correction."". Tokwiro.com. Retrieved 2009-03-31. ^"Phil Hellmuth Scandal on ThePlayr Poker News". Theplayr.com. Retrieved 2009-03-31. [dead link]^"PokerPages Phil Hellmuth News". Pokerpages.com. Retrieved 2009-03-31. ^"Poker News, "Tokwiro Releases Statement on UltimateBet Software Glitch Awarding Pot to Wrong Player."". Pokernews.com. Retrieved 2009-03-31. External links
FBI '-- Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces $731 Million Settlement of Money Laundering and Forfeiture Complaint with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 14:24
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has entered into settlement agreements with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker'--two of three online poker companies sued by the U.S. in a money laundering and forfeiture complaint that was originally filed in April 2012'--that were approved today by U.S. District Judge Leonard B. Sand. Under the terms of the settlement with Full Tilt Poker (''Full Tilt''), the company agreed to forfeit virtually all of its assets to the U.S. to fully resolve the charges in the complaint. Under the terms of the settlement with PokerStars, the company agreed to forfeit $547 million to the U.S. and to reimburse the approximately $184 million owed by Full Tilt to foreign players in order to fully resolve the allegations in the complaint. The settlement further provides that PokerStars will acquire the forfeited Full Tilt assets from the government. Full Tilt's U.S. fraud victims will be able to seek compensation for their losses from the Department of Justice from the $547 million forfeited by PokerStars.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, ''We are pleased to announce these settlements by Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, which allow us to quickly get significant compensation into the victim players' hands. Today's settlements demonstrate that if you engage in conduct that violates the laws of the United States, as we alleged in this case, then even if you are doing so from across the ocean, you will have to answer for that conduct and turn over your ill-gotten gains.''
Under the terms of the settlement with Full Tilt, U.S. victims of the company's alleged fraud will be able to seek compensation from the Department of Justice (DOJ). The funds that will be used to compensate qualifying victims will come from the $547 million that will be forfeited by PokerStars as part of its settlement with the government.
In addition to forfeiting $547 million to the U.S., under the terms of the settlement with PokerStars, the company must make available to foreign players all balances that were held in the Full Tilt accounts within 90 days; the amount of those balances is approximately $184 million. Pokerstars will also acquire the forfeited Full Tilt assets from the government. PokerStars' acquisition of the forfeited Full Tilt assets will be complete upon the government's receipt of a $225 million payment from PokerStars, which must take place within six days of the entrance of today's settlement.
Additional terms of the PokerStars settlement include:
Within 45 days of the acquisition of the forfeited Full Tilt assets, Isai Scheinberg, who is presently under indictment in a related criminal case, shall not serve in any management or director role at PokerStars. This provision is subject to re-evaluation by the parties upon the resolution of the criminal case.PokerStars is also prohibited from employing, or otherwise hiring, Full Tilt Poker insiders Raymond Bitar, Howard Lederer, Rafael Furst, Chris Ferguson, and Nelson Burtnick. Bitar and Burtnick are also named as defendants in a related criminal Indictment. Bitar, Lederer, Furst, and Ferguson are named as civil money-laundering defendants in this complaint.PokerStars is prohibited from offering online poker in the U.S. for real money unless and until it is legal to do so under U.S. law.The government will maintain a portion of the $547 million forfeited by PokerStars as a substitute for the forfeited Full Tilt assets to cover the litigation of claims by other parties asserting interests in the forfeited Full Tilt assets.The settlements entered today with regard to Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, and the proposed settlement with regard to Absolute Poker, do not constitute admissions of any wrongdoing, culpability, liability, or guilt by any parties. Under the terms of a ''domain name use'' agreement entered into between PokerStars and the government on April 20, 2011, the company previously settled its accounts with U.S. players.
In a related matter, the U.S. Attorney's Office also filed a motion requesting that the court enter a settlement agreement reached with Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet that requires the company to forfeit all of its assets in order to fully resolve this action. The motion also requests that the government be permitted to liquidate the Absolute assets, with the net proceeds of that sale to be held pending the resolution of claims filed by other parties who have asserted an ownership interest in the Absolute assets.
The following allegations are based on the Amended Civil Forfeiture Complaint filed in September and the indictments returned in the related criminal action:
On October 13, 2006, the United States enacted the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), making it a federal crime for gambling businesses to ''knowingly accept'' most forms of payment ''in connection with the participation of another person in unlawful Internet gambling.'' Despite the passage of the UIGEA, Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet (the poker companies), each located offshore, continued operating in the United States. Because U.S. banks and credit card issuers were largely unwilling to process their payments, the poker companies allegedly used fraudulent methods to circumvent federal law and deceive these financial institutions into processing payments on their behalf. For example, the poker companies arranged for the money received from U.S. gamblers to be disguised as payments to hundreds of non-existent online merchants purporting to sell merchandise such as jewelry and golf balls. Of the billions of dollars in payment transactions that the poker companies deceived U.S. banks into processing, approximately one-third or more of the funds went directly to the poker companies as revenue through the ''rake'' charged to players on almost every poker hand played online.
To accomplish their fraud, the poker companies worked with an array of highly compensated ''payment processors'' who obtained accounts at U.S. banks for the poker companies. The payment processors lied to banks about the nature of the financial transactions they were processing and covered up those lies, by, among other things, creating phony corporations and websites to disguise payments to the poker companies. For example, a PokerStars document from May 2009 acknowledged that they received money from U.S. gamblers through company names that ''strongly imply the transaction has nothing to do with PokerStars'' and that PokerStars used whatever company names ''the processor can get approved by the bank.''
Full Tilt Poker further defrauded players by misrepresenting that player funds on deposit in online gambling accounts were safe, secure, and available for withdrawal at any time. In reality, the company did not maintain funds sufficient to repay all players and, instead, utilized players' funds to distribute more than $400 million to Full Tilt's owners. By March 31, 2011, two weeks before the initial complaint in this action was unsealed, Full Tilt Poker owed approximately $390 million to players around the world, including approximately $160 million to players in the United States. At that time, Full Tilt Poker had only approximately $60 million on deposit in its bank accounts. Full Tilt Poker's scheme continued even after the civil forfeiture action commenced and the related criminal indictment was unsealed in April 2011. Full Tilt Poker continued accepting foreign player funds despite the fact that it had liabilities to players around the world for over $300 million yet held only a small fraction of that amount in its bank accounts.
Eleven defendants were charged criminally in connection with the original Internet poker indictment, seven of whom have been arrested. The defendants who have been arrested are: Raymond Bitar, Bradley Franzen, Ryan Lang, Ira Rubin, Brent Beckley, Chad Elie, and John Campos. All seven defendants except Bitar have each pled guilty and await sentencing with the exception of Campos, who was sentenced in June 2012 to three months in prison. Charges are still pending against the remaining four defendants'--Nelson Burtnick, Isai Scheinberg, Paul Tate, and Scott Tom'--who remain at large. The charges and accusations against them are allegations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara praised the FBI for its outstanding leadership in the investigation, which he noted is ongoing.
This matter is being handled by the Office's Asset Forfeiture and Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sharon Cohen Levin, Michael Lockard, Jason Cowley, and Andrew Goldstein are in charge of the civil money laundering and forfeiture action. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Arlo Devlin-Brown, Nicole Friedlander and Niketh Velamoor are in charge of the criminal case.
- ADIC Janice K. Fedarcyk's statement on the settlement
Controversial 'An Open Secret' Tanks In Initial Limited Rollout | Deadline
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 14:09
Amy Berg's controversial documentary An Open Secret, which addresses allegations of teen sexual molestation in Hollywood, performed poorly in its initial runs in nine theaters this weekend in Denver and Seattle, distributor Rocky Mountain Pictures said today.
''In 26 years, it's the lowest-grossing film we've ever had,'' Rocky Mountain's Ron Rodgers said by phone this morning. ''We knew it would be challenging subject matter.'' Rodgers said one of the film's ''best showings'' was in Seattle, where it grossed about $200. Beyond that, Rodgers declined to provide specific figures for the movie, a version of which screened at last year's DocNYC festival.
''I don't think we've had any interference from Hollywood and I don't jump onto conspiracy theories,'' said Rodgers. ''We've faced controversy before'' with Dinesh D'Souza's 2016: Obama's America. ''Hollywood tried to ignore it, but then it did so much business, they had to eventually address it. But I don't see any indication there was any interference now.''
Rocky Mountain released 2016: Obama's America in 2012, riding election year momentum in the U.S., eventually grossing nearly $33.5M.
An Open Secret will head to New York next weekend, playing the Regal E-Walk. Rodgers said an L.A. run will likely depend the film's performance next week. ''Hopefully we can turn it around in New York.''
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Brian Peck convicted of sexually abusing Nickelodeon child star STILL working with kids | Daily Mail Online
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 14:08
Brian Peck served 16 months in prison after admitting two counts of abusing a Nickelodeon child actor He was charged with eight counts of sexual abuse, including abuse by 'by anesthesia or controlled substance'Actor, 54, was in two X-Men movies and all three Living Dead movies and is now featured in controversial documentary on pedophile abuse in HollywoodSince release from prison he has been dialogue coach, worked on Disney series and played teacher and claims to be friend of Charlie SheenOnly banned from direct contact with children, so he is able to work on children's series and on sets with underage actors Tracked down by Daily Mail Online, he refused to comment on his 2004 conviction but not-for-profit says he shows why laws need to be changed By Hugo Daniel For Dailymail.com
Published: 13:37 EST, 8 June 2015 | Updated: 14:53 EST, 8 June 2015
As he strolls through Hollywood, X-Men and Living Dead actor Brian Peck does not seem to have a care in the world.
A regular at horror conventions, Peck has a lengthy and continuing Hollywood career, and claims a friendship with Charlie Sheen.
But in fact Peck is a convicted child sex offender - who used his movie industry role to abuse a Nickelodeon star, and who astonishingly is not banned from working with children.
Peck was tracked down by Daily Mail Online as a controversial movie documentary - An Open Secret - is released.
Dubbed 'The movie Hollywood doesn't want you to see', An Open Secret tells the story of five victims who say they were molested as young boys trying to make it in the film business.
Peck is featured in the film, but Daily Mail Online has obtained full details of the charges which were leveled against him.
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Out and about: Brian Peck in Los Angeles. The convicted child abuser continues to work in Hollywood after serving time in prison for abusing a Nickeloden child star thanks to laws not banning all contact with children
Cult figure: Peck is a fixture at horror conventions and was pictured on his way to being interviewed by a specialist publication, at horror shop Monster-a-Gogo in Hollywood
Perhaps most disturbingly, he is only prohibited from direct contact with children, not from being part of productions in which children are acting - meaning that since being convicted he has worked on a Disney show and a horror movie set in a high school.
He played a 'Sex Ed Teacher', according to the movie's credits.
Peck, 54, was convicted in 2004 Peck was convicted of a lewd act against a child and oral copulation of a person under 16.
In court documents obtained by Daily Mail Online the victim is only named as John Doe, to protect his identity.
The child did not want his identity revealed for fear of it having a negative affect on his career.
Peck had been coaching the youngster in acting at his home when the offenses happened and was only arrested after the budding actor's parents reported him to police.
The documents show Peck was originally charged with 11 counts including: lewd act upon a child; sodomy of a person under 16; attempted sodomy of a person under 16; sexual penetration by foreign object; four counts of oral copulation of a person under 16; oral copulation by anesthesia or controlled substance; sending harmful matter; and using a minor for sex acts.
In the end he pleaded 'no contest' to two counts - lewd act against a child and oral copulation - and the court found him guilty of both. The remaining counts were dismissed.
Pedophile actor Brian Peck seen after his release from prison
Guilt: The court documents which show how Brian Peck was convicted of two counts of child abuse. The victim was called John Doe because he did not want to have his career ruined by the ordeal
Sentencing: The first part of Peck's sentencing hearing sentenced him to a year in jail. He was later sentenced to four months for the other count to which he plead guilty, taking the total to 16 months in prison
Child involvement: Peck worked on Disney show The Suite Life of Zack & Cody in 2006-07 despite being convicted of sex crimes against a boy aged under 16 just two years earlier
Count two says Peck: 'Willfully, unlawfully, and lewdly commit a lewd and lascivious act upon and with the body of John Doe, who was 15 years old, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, and gratifying the lust, passions, and sexual desires of the defendant, who was at least 10 years older than John Doe.'
Count six says Peck: 'Did unlawfully, being over the age of 21 years, participate in an act of oral copulation with John Doe, a person under the age of sixteen years.'
An Open Secret names Peck as one of several abusers who have worked in Hollywood and features interviews with victims who bravely spoke out about what happened to them.
However, its credibility has been questioned because one of the five men is Michael Egan - who later withdrew four lawsuits against Hollywood bigwigs including Bryan Singer. Peck's victim is not featured in An Open Secret although the film highlights his case.
Peck was convicted in October 2004 and sentenced to 16 months in jail but after completing his sentence returned to Hollywood and resumed his work as an actor and dialogue coach.
According to IMDB he has worked on several children's shows since he got out.
He also worked alongside director Bryan Singer '' himself the subject of a sex abuse lawsuit, which was dropped, and for which the lawyer who brought it has now apologized - on X-Men and X-Men 2 before his arrest.
Peck also appears on the X-Men 1.5 DVD commentary.
According to his IMDB page, Peck worked on Disney show The Suite Life of Zack and Cody in 2006-07.
He also played a role of a 'Sex Ed Teacher' in a 2009 short horror movie called Queerantine set in a high school.
He is listed as a dialogue coach on 2010 children's movie Jack and the Beanstalk, which starred Chevy Chase.
And more recently he is listed as a dialogue coach on 22 episodes of Charlie Sheen's comedy series Anger Management.
Speaking about his friendship with Sheen in a 2012 interview with website Love Horror, the apparently well-connected Peck said: 'Currently I am working with Charlie Sheen as a dialog coach on his new sitcom Anger Management, we are having a blast and I adore Charlie.'
It is not known whether the makers of any of these movies or shows were aware of Peck's convictions although information about his crimes is easily accessible.
Perhaps most bizarrely, Peck's profile on IMDB even says: 'Registered Sex Offender'.
Key role: Brian Peck was in all three Living Dead movies, the only actor to feature in the original and both the sequels
Unaffected: Brian Peck at a Monsterpalooza convention in 2012. He remains a fixture on the circuit for such events
Questions: Brian Peck in a 2009 short horror movie called Queerantine set in a high school. He played 'Sex Ed Teacher' according to the movie credits
Peck is a cult figure in the horror movie world after being the only actor to appear in Return of the Living Dead 1, 2 and 3.
Daily Mail Online photographed the actor heading into a Hollywood costume store where he did a sit down interview with niche magazine Gore Noir about his role in the movies.
Danna Kelley, 35, a shop worker at Monster-A-Gogo, said the actor is also regular at horror fan conventions.
She said: 'He's a cult figure. I know that he does horror conventions like Monsterpalooza at the Burbank Hilton, that's really what he talked about the most, autographs and such for Return of the Living Dead.'
Danna had no idea about Peck's convictions and when made aware of them, she added: 'If I had known that I would have thought of him completely different.
'He wouldn't be the first one, there's so many, it's just horrible. I'm sure not many people know about that.
'I'm sure if these events [the conventions] knew, they wouldn't want that stigma attached to them.
'He shouldn't be allowed around children, period.'
Friendship: Pedophile Brian peck claimed that he had 'a blast' with Charlie Sheen (with his father Martin) while working on Anger Management as a dialogue coach. IMDB lists him as being involved in 22 episodes of the show
Concerned: Amy Berg (left) featured Peck in her documentary An Open Secret, which was made with information from Anne Henry (right) who runs the non-profit BizParents and wants tougher laws against pedophiles working in Hollywood
Daily Mail Online confronted Peck at his Los Angeles home and asked if he had seen An Open Secret or if he has plans to, he said: 'No I haven't. I don't plan on it.'
Asked if he had an opinion on his abuse being a subject of the movie, he said: 'I don't have any comment on it.'
And asked if he thinks he should still be allowed to work in Hollywood, he said: 'I've no comment about it.'
Asked finally is he was sorry to the actor he abused, he said: 'I don't have any comment on it, I really don't.'
He's still working on camera. It's a complete scandal
Anne Henry who runs BizParents, on Brian Peck
Anne Henry, who runs the non-profit BizParents which helps families of children in the industry, and whose research formed much of the basis of An Open Secret, said Peck's sex offending and ability to return to the industry highlighted the need for enhanced protection for children in Hollywood.
'Brian Peck's actual sex offender conviction of a child actor was related to a show which was on Nickelodeon,' she said.
'I applaud that child. It is rare that a child of that stature would prosecute because they understandably fear for their career.
'I think he handled it incredibly well, managing to cover his identity to this day.'
Due to campaigning by BizParents, the state of California passed the Child Performer Protection Act in 2012 '' but, as it stands, registered sex offenders are still allowed to work in Hollywood without difficulty.
She said: 'The law applies to people who have direct contact with children, so Brian Peck would no longer be allowed to coach a child actor as he did in the conviction.
'Before 2012 this was legal and I would say he [Peck] is one of the top three reasons for the law's existence because we could see this was a bad thing.
'He could, however, still work on set as an actor or crew member.
'In California there's another law that the parents must be in sight or sound of the minor at all times on set.
'He's still allowed to work on sets with children on them because crews are exempt (from checks) and because the parents are supposed to be there. That's the safety net.'
For Henry and other campaigners the current safeguards are not enough.
She said: 'For me as a mum I'm horrified that he's allowed to work in our industry at all. I don't care where he goes but he shouldn't be in our industry.
At home: Brian Peck's home in Los Angeles suggests that his career remains financially healthy as both the cars parked outside have personalized registrations which relate to his film career
Casual: The pedophile who served 16 months for his abuse of a Nickelodeon child star appeared unfazed in Los Angeles. Approached by Daily Mail Online and asked about his crimes, he declined to comment
Wheels: The pedophile and horror actor's Mercedes is worth upwards of $31,000 as new, while his Honda Element also has a custom plate named after roles he has been involved in
'I wish that Hollywood had more moral fiber and would police itself and not allow people with those kind of criminal records to work.'
Henry added she thinks Peck relies on favors from pals in the movie business to get his roles, saying: 'He was an actor then became a dialogue coach. It's the person who gets the kids ready, makes sure their lines are together.
'It's the kind of job title you might give a friend you were trying to give employment too.'
She called on Peck to quit the industry, adding: 'People [convicted of such crimes] kind of go under the radar but not Brian Peck. He's still working on camera. It's a complete scandal.'
Executive producer of An Open Secret Matthew Valentinas, a Boston lawyer, has also spoken out about the lack of regulation in Hollywood. He told Elle magazine: 'Animals have more protection and rights on a film set than children do.'
An Open Secret struggled to land a distribution deal because it paints the industry in a bad light. Executive producer Gabe Hoffman told website Deadline last month: 'We went to everybody and anybody at all the biggest companies and got turndowns everywhere'.
However it finally landed a deal with Rocky Mountain Pictures and Vesuvio Entertaiment and went on a 20 city US theatrical release which began in Denver and Seattle on June 5.
Henry hopes it can make a similar impact to Sea World expose Blackfish.
She added: 'In my dream world I would like this to be as big as Blackfish, where everybody just knows and it becomes common knowledge. If that happens predators wouldn't be in our industry they would go somewhere else where there was less scrutiny and less of a light shone on them.'
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Feds Want to ID Web Trolls Who 'Threatened' Silk Road Judge | WIRED
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 13:51
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest.
On Dark Web sites like the Silk Road black market and its discussion forums, anonymous visitors could write even the most extreme libertarian and anarchist statements without fear. The rest of the internet, as a few critics of the US judicial system may soon learn, isn't quite so free of consequences.
Last week the Department of Justice issued a grand jury subpoena to the libertarian media site Reason.com, demanding that it identify six visitors to the site. The subpoena letter, obtained and published by blogger Ken White, lists trollish comments made by those six Reason readers that'--whether seriously or in jest'--call for violence against Katherine Forrest, the New York judge who presided over the Silk Road trial and late last month sentenced Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht to life in prison.
''It's judges like these that should be taken out back and shot,'' wrote one user named Agammamon, in a comment thread that has since been deleted from Reason.com's story on Ulbricht's sentencing.
''It's judges like these that will be taken out back and shot,'' answered another user named Alan.
''Why do it out back? Shoot them out front, on the steps of the courthouse,'' reads a third comment from someone going by the name Cloudbuster.
The subpoena calls for Reason.com to hand over data about the six users, including their IP addresses, account information, phone numbers, email addresses, billing information, and devices associated with them. And it cites a section of the United States criminal code that forbids ''mailing threatening communications.'' When those communications threaten a federal judge, they constitute a felony punishable by as much as 10 years in prison. (The average internet user has no such protection.)
''We command you that all and singular business and excuses being laid aside, you appear and attend before the grand jury of the people of the United States,'' reads the subpoena signed by US Attorney Preet Bharara and assistant US attorney Niketh Velamoor. In an accompanying letter, Velamoor asks that the subpoena not be publicly revealed: ''The Government hereby requests that you voluntarily refrain from disclosing the existence of the subpoena to any third party.''
When WIRED called Department of Justice investigator Maxime Vales, who is named in the subpoena as the intended recipient of the users' data, he declined to comment. Reason.com didn't respond to WIRED's request for comment.
Forrest surprised many Silk Road watchers with her life sentence for Ulbricht, who was convicted on five felony counts that included a ''kingpin'' statute for running an organized crime operation. Even the prosecution had asked for only a sentence ''substantially more than the mandatory minimum'' of 20 years'--not life. ''Silk Road's birth and presence asserted that its'...creator was better than the laws of this country,'' Forrest told Ulbricht at sentencing. ''This is deeply troubling, terribly misguided, and very dangerous.''
The Reason.com incident marks the second such subpoena in the past few months to result from law enforcement's clash with the Dark Web. In March, the Department of Homeland Security subpoenaed the ''darknetmarkets'' forum on Reddit, seeking identifying information about several users who may have been associated with Evolution, another Dark Web black market that followed in the Silk Road's footsteps.
It's hard to imagine the Reason.com commenters actually intended violent action against Forrest, so much as the typical trollish provocation that fills so many web comment sections. But that doesn't make their speech any less illegal under existing statutes about threatening federal officials.
In fact, Forrest has been threatened before on the Dark Web site the Hidden Wiki, and even had her personal information published, including a purported home address. ''I hope some drug cartel that lost a lot of money with the seizure of silk road will murder this lady and her entire family,'' wrote a user named ServingJustice, who also published Forrest's personal info.
Compared with that ''doxing,'' Forrest's more recent critics on Reason's website made what appear to be only idle threats. But they did so outside of the Dark Web's anonymity protections. And if Reason coughs up their personal data to Grand Jury investigators, they may come to regret it.
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People are posing with tampons to break the taboo about menstruation
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 13:48
Newsreaders, comedians and weather reporters are among those that have joined the Just A Tampon campaign.Image: Twitter/Mashable
By Tim ChesterUK2015-06-10 11:52:31 UTC
LONDON '-- People have been posting selfies with tampons on Twitter all week, using the #JustATampon hashtag to raise awareness of menstruation and break the taboo about periods worldwide.
The campaign, which was launched by global children's charity Plan UK and news site V Point, has also been calling for people to text TAMPON to 7007 to donate £3 to Plan UK.
The money raised is going towards menstrual health work in the developing world, with a single donation able to provide a girl in Uganda sanitary towels for a year, according to Plan UK.
"Donations will help tackle discrimination faced by girls globally, not just around menstrual hygiene but other issues they face including child marriage and female genital mutilation," they say.
"Around the world, millions of girls face discrimination just for being girls. One way this manifests itself is through poor access to quality menstrual health and hygiene. It not only poses health issues, but means girls can miss school when they have their period and face bullying. Only 12% of girls and women have access to sanitary products around the world. And in Africa, one in ten girls miss school when they have their period."
Comedians, newscasters, reporters and presenters, including Jon Snow, Jenny Eclair and Carol Smillie, have joined members of the public in the campaign.
Lots of people couldn't resist putting them in their noses.
Others went for the beard.
One woman incorporated one into a weather report.
Of course, some angry men got involved, unwittingly helping to boost the cause.
You can donate money to Plan UK here.
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.
Topics: jon snow, tampon, UK
OPM Breach Exposes Agency's Systemic Security Woes
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 13:47
The massive hack at the Office of Personnel Management showed not just room for improvement but a lack of very basic security fundamentals -- and expertise.The immediate thoughts from the security community when news broke of the data breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that exposed personnel files of four million federal workers were that this was yet another sign of the room for improvement in the federal government on the cybersecurity front. But as details continue to emerge about the true state of security at the agency prior to the breach and the plans officials have laid out to prevent such attacks in the future, the problem seems to be much bigger than originally thought. Room for improvement implies at least a baseline level of understanding of security principles -- a state which many security pundits following the story question really exists in the first place.
The situation exposes a "lack of professionalism and knowledge" that is about 20 years behind where the security industry stands, says Pierluigi Stella, CTO of Network Box USA.
"The Inspector General had already told OPM about their material weaknesses but nothing at all was apparently done. There was no IT security staff until 2013. Most of IT was operated by contractors whose contracts were expired," he says. "OPM apparently wasn't sure of what they had in their own network. They could not provide a comprehensive inventory of servers, databases and network devices. Apparently the hackers knew this network better than the people that operated it."
In response to the breach, OPM officials tipped their hand in how penetrable the agency's systems really have been all along. They told the public that since the breach, the agency has made improvements to its network security, including deploying anti-malware technology and restricting remote access for network administrators.
The fact that those table-stakes systems are not already in place at an agency that handles such sensitive human resource data is worrisome enough. But that they're posted as the agency's path forward toward preventing similar breaches is even more troublesome to veterans in the security world. The belief that anti-malware is going to save the agency from breaches in the future belies an understanding of what good security posture looks like in the first place, experts say.
"Judging from the government's response, the root cause of the problem seems to be a lack of experience in its personnel, not just missing security controls. The information security industry knows a lot about what defense measures are effective and not," says Jeremiah Grossman, founder of WhiteHat Security. "It's not just about installing anti-virus and thinking you're done. That seems to be their current level of thinking, which virtually guarantees a similar incident."
Unfortunately, this may be symptomatic of deeper problems across the board and not just at OPM. As Richard Bejtlich explained in a blog earlier today, the "fundamental misunderstanding of the nature" of the federal government's Continuous Diagnostic and Mitigation (CDM) program that has shifted priorities away from actually repelling intruders in favor of focusing on cyber "hygiene" is one such issue. According to him, many have conflated CDM -- which at heart is just a vulnerability management program -- as a way to help find intruders, particularly in long delays in the government's Einstein intrusion detection program.
"CDM is either being sold as, or misunderstood as, a way to detect intruders," wrote Bejtlich, chief security strategist for FireEye. "The focus on CDM has meant intruders already present in Federal networks are left to steal and fortify their positions, while scarce IT resources are devoted to patching. The Feds are identifying and locking doors and windows while intruders are inside the house."
And, unfortunately, the fallout from this breach means that attackers are all the more firmly entrenched inside that proverbial house. There's an even more troubling element to this OPM breach, which is the enormous consequences that the exposure of this data set in particular brings to the overall federal government risk posture. The damage has already been done on this front and the data exposed will help attackers not only out further cyberattacks, but greatly aid in foreign counterintelligence (CI), says John Schindler, security strategist and author of The XX Committee blog.
As Schindler explains, the most sensitive of data stolen from the OPM was background investigation (BI) material on anyone seeking security clearances.
"Whoever now holds OPM's records possesses something like the Holy Grail from a CI perspective. They can target Americans in their database for recruitment or influence. After all, they know their vices, every last one '-- the gambling habit, the inability to pay bills on time, the spats with former spouses, the taste for something sexual on the side '-- since all that is recorded in security clearance paperwork."
According to Schindler, the government will feel the consequences of the breach for decades.
"If this sounds like a nightmare scenario for Washington, DC, that's because it is," he says. "Decades of neglect have gotten us here and it will take decades to get us out of it."
Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading. View Full BioMore Insights
Russian psychiatrists: 'Selfie' addiction may soon be classified as illness | Russia Beyond The Headlines
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 13:45
As the craze for publishing self-portraits, or ''selfies'' as they have become known, continues to spread on social networks, a backlash is beginning to develop against a practice widely seen as narcissistic. Russian psychiatrists have now waded into the debate, arguing that not only is selfie-taking a sign of insecurity and self-centeredness, but in extreme cases it can also be considered an illness.
Harmless at first glance, the desire to constantly share pictures of yourself in the anticipation of attracting ''likes'' from friends and admirers can lead to dependence and the necessity of psychiatric treatment. According to leading Russian psychologists, internet addiction could soon be classified as a mental illnesses, and then such a diagnosis will be given to those addicted to online games, social networks or selfies.
However, for Lev Perezhogin, a senior researcher at the Federal Medical Research Center of Psychiatry and Addiction at the Ministry of Health of Russia, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the act of taking a selfie. ''A selfie is essentially a self-portrait," says Perezhogin. ''Self-portraits were present in the work of almost every artist, this is self-expression."
However, he explains, it can reach the stage at which a person cannot live without selfies, making a show of their every step. When taking and posting selfies becomes an obsession, then treatment is needed.
"Doctors are now faced with a total enthusiasm for mobile devices in general, and selfies in particular," Perezhogin continues.
"Selfies manifest themselves as a form of dependence on electronic devices. For example, a person cannot post photos when there is no internet and starts to experience withdrawal symptoms like they would with heroin. Of course, this is an addiction, and it should be treated, including with medication."
Girls the biggest victimsTripods for cameras, special selfie sticks, timers and cords '' equipment manufacturers are led by the customer, and the demand for such products is growing. For instance, some Moscow parks are considering opening selfie-stick rentals for visitors who have left theirs at home or did not want to take along extra equipment.
"For my birthday, I asked for a tripod with remote control," says 21-year-old Muscovite Yulia, who declined to give her last name. ''My husband and I travel a lot and I want us to be in one frame together. I can take about 100 photos in a place that I like in order to get the perfect shots.''
Her husband Alexei says that experience has taught him that it is selfies that get the most likes on social networks: "Many times I posted photos of nature, streets and buildings, but people still put their likes to selfies, even if they are taken in the morning at breakfast.''
Psychologists note that it is young people aged 13 to 30 that are the most vulnerable to selfiemania, predominantly girls, who like to take group selfies in addition to individual ones.
All for the sake of a selfieMany are inspired by celebrities from the worlds of politics and show business, who are happy to share their selfies with fans. Candid photos of celebrities taken in the mirror are no less popular '' these also find their way onto the web, sometimes with the help of hackers.
''You can't surprise anybody with a naked photo now; unfortunately, in the pursuit of ratings [''likes''], young people photograph themselves in front of a burning building, people fighting or a car accident," says psychologist Olga Peshkov. "But there are also those who simply do not have enough attention and communication, and then they start to post their pictures in front of food, a cabinet, or a shower."
This desire to catalogue one's every step is resulting in social networks being flooded with mundane selfies '' a result of the disorientating nature of a world that places a premium on the quest for identity, according to Lev Perezhogin.
"We live in an age of self-centeredness, people do not understand either their social role or personal affiliation, hence the search for experiments," Perezhogin suggests. "Hence the desire to change jobs 10 times, to change your partner 20 times '-- the eternal search for personality, to understand who you are and why you exist. In the course of the search for identity, narcissism arises '-- the desire to look at ourselves, to put ourselves on display and get the approval of others."
The universal selfie craze has already led to some prohibitions, as the editor of U.S. magazine Vogue imposed a taboo on selfies at the Costume Institute Gala, while the director of the Cannes Film Festival banned selfies on the red carpet.
A number of leading museums around the world have also introduced bans on visitors photographing themselves. Selfies are not allowed at London's National Gallery, New York's Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Australia, while in Russia, a ban on selfies has been imposed by the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
CNN Real Advertisements and Fake News - YouTube
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 12:44
Syrian rebels pledge support to Caitlyn Jenner, saying they want to be 'free' too - People - News - The Independent
Tue, 09 Jun 2015 12:34
But she's won fans from unexpected quarters, too.
The town of Kafranbel, in north-west Syria, has put their support behind the former athlete, saying that they too would like to be "free".
A group of activists held up Syrian flags, and a sign saying: "Caitlyn! We would write Kafranbel with a C, if it meant like you, we would be free. Maybe Liberated Cafranbel?"
Jenner recently came out as transgender, and announced her new identity via a Vanity Fair cover.
The transition has met with some opposition - including Snoop Dogg calling her a "science project" and a group petitioning to have Jenner's Olympic gold medal rescinded.
However, the overwhelming response to Jenner's transition was positive, with Laverne Cox saying: "Caitlyn looks amazing and is beautiful but what I think is most beautiful about her is her heart and soul, the ways she has allowed the world into her vulnerabilities."
Kafranbel has been dubbed the "creative centre of the revolta gainst President Bashar al-Aassad". The rebels oppose the leader, and also want to stand strong against Isis.
Read more: Snoop Dogg labels Caitlyn Jenner 'science project'Drake Bell says he will continue to refer to Caitlyn as 'Bruce'Caitlyn Jenner shares photo of herself with trans women
Garth Ancier Lawsuit Apology, Settlement | Mediaite
Mon, 08 Jun 2015 21:57
Two lawyers who helped a man file sex abuse charges against director Bryan Singer and three others admitted in letters obtained by Mediaite that the suits were bogus.
The admissions come in response to countersuits filed by two of the accused. The lawyers, Jeff Herman and Mark Gallagher, paid seven-figure settlements to Garth Ancier and David Neuman, whom their client Michael Egan had accused of sexual abuse last year.
In a letter to the accused, the two attorneys stated:
''I participated in making what I now know to be untrue and provably false allegations against you. I have resolved this matter with compensation to you. I am hopeful that you can recover fully.
''I now do not believe that the allegations in the lawsuit were true and accurate. I deeply regret the unjustified pain, suffering and significant damage the lawsuit and publicity has caused [Mr. Ancier / Mr. Neuman], and his family, friends, and colleagues.''
The allegations made headlines last year, especially given the involvement of Singer, a high-profile Hollywood director. But Egan's claims crumbled almost immediately after the emergence of his contradictory statements made in a previous case. Ancier and Neuman countersued, and both men released statements of vindication over the weekend.
''The lawyers who brought this false claim are now making a significant financial payment as part of their apology for bringing a case they acknowledge never had any merit, finally proving that a convicted scam artist's claims about me were entirely made up,'' Ancier said. ''I said on day one this was all absolutely false and I'm certainly pleased that's now been admitted by the lawyers responsible for transforming absurd fabrications into a real-life nightmare for me.''
[Image via trekandshoot / Shutterstock.com]
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SAG-AFTRA Threatening To Sue 'An Open Secret' Director Amy Berg | Deadline
Mon, 08 Jun 2015 21:57
Leaders of SAG-AFTRA tried to sanitize director Amy Berg's explosive documentary about the sexual abuse of child actors in Hollywood, threatening to sue her if she didn't remove all references to the union from An Open Secret, which opens in a platform release in three cities beginning today. It may be the first time a Hollywood union has ever threatened to take legal action against a filmmaker over the content of a film.
''This firm is litigation counsel to SAG-AFTRA,'' wrote attorney Douglas Mirell, in a letter to Berg and the film's producers, dated December 3, 2014. ''Demand is hereby made,'' the letter states, that ''no'...references to SAG, to SAG-AFTRA, or to any SAG-AFTRA committees be included in any portions of this documentary.'' Mirell's letter was copied to David White, the guild's national executive director; Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union's chief operating officer and general counsel; and Pamela Greenwalt, the guild's chief communications and marketing officer, who all knew about its contents.
The guild leaders, through their outside litigation counsel, demanded that Berg delete all references in the film to the SAG-AFTRA Young Performers Committee. They also wanted Berg to remove all references to one of her main target's longtime connection to that committee. And they demanded that Berg cut a large portion of her interview with the co-founder of BizParentz, the organization that has done more than any other to raise awareness of child abuse in Hollywood. They even demanded that Berg cut a scene showing the front of the union's building and the large ''SAG-AFTRA One Union'' logo emblazoned on it.
But Berg stood her ground. She refused to cut SAG-AFTRA out of her film, and the union did not carry out its threat to sue. At least not yet. And now it claims that it didn't threaten to sue. The correspondence, obtained by Deadline, says otherwise.
Related'An Open Secret's Difficult Road To Distribution
The relationship between Berg and the union had been rocky from the start. She and the film's producers, Matthew Valentinas and Gabe Hoffman, had been looking into the sexual abuse of child actors since 2011 and had uncovered some disturbing information about Michael Harrah, a manager of child actors and a former child actor himself who'd been a longtime member of the SAG Young Performers Committee, which he co-founded in 1975 and chaired from 2001-2003.
Berg contacted SAG-AFTRA to set up an interview with Harrah, but the guild offered two other committee reps instead '' actress Elizabeth Sarah McLaughlin, the chair of the committee, and Leslie Slomka, the committee's staff liaison. But Berg held firm; she wanted Harrah. It was going to be an ambush.
''Ms. Berg's colleagues were less than forthcoming and forthright when asked the reasons why they wanted to interview Mr. Harrah,'' Mirell later wrote in an email to Alonzo Wickers IV, the attorney for Berg's Disarming Films. ''While prevaricating about the content and topics of their desired interview, Ms. Berg's colleagues ultimately refused SAG-AFTRA's offer to interview either of these two women; instead, they insisted upon interviewing only Mr. Harrah. Once this adamant insistence upon speaking only with Mr. Harrah became clear, SAG-AFTRA's role was limited merely to coordinating the logistics of that interview.''
A guild rep was on hand during the interview, and when it was over, so was Harrah's long service to the guild. Berg sat down with Harrah for the interview at the union's offices in Hollywood on March 26, 2014. He abruptly resigned from the committee a few days later. ''Mr. Harrah voluntarily resigned as a member of the SAG-AFTRA Young Performers Committee within a matter of days following the interview,'' Mirell told Wickers. ''No public statement by SAG-AFTRA accompanied Mr. Harrah's voluntary resignation from that committee.''
Harrah, the film reveals, had questionable relations with some of the child actors he once represented; some of them even lived with him at his home. During the interview, Berg asked him if he is ''attracted to young boys.''
''Not particularly, no,'' he replied.
Joey Coleman, a former child actor who was once Harrah's client, presents evidence in the film that appears to contradict that '' a taped telephone conversation in which Harrah acknowledges that he'd made ''unwanted'' advances towards him when Coleman was a kid.
''I didn't like when you tried to have me sleep in your bed and touch me and everything,'' Coleman told Harrah on the phone. ''I hated that.''
''Yeah, and that was something unwanted I shouldn't have done,'' Harrah replied, unaware that he was being taped. ''And there's no way you can undo that. But it certainly is something I shouldn't have done.''
Harrah told the filmmakers, however, that he doesn't remember having ever done anything improper with Coleman. ''I don't know what Joey is remembering, but I don't remember anything that would have caused him to feel that way,'' he says in the film. ''All I can say is that as a result of the situation he was in, not only with me but with others, that that was how he perceived something. It's certainly wasn't anything I intended. And that was going to be my response to it.''
Harrah, who has never been charged with any crimes against children, told Deadline that he hasn't seen the film, but said that ''the allegations, as I understand them, are not true.''
Asked about his taped phone conversation with Coleman, in which he appears to acknowledge having done ''something unwanted,'' Harrah said: ''I did not acknowledge that. I didn't say what they claim I said.''
Asked if he ever had sexual contact with a minor, he told Deadline: ''It's just not something I think I should respond to. If I deny it, people are going to say, 'Of course he would say that.' No matter what you say, this is an emotional question and people make up their minds without listening to the facts. No matter what I say, it won't sound right. There's no way to answer 'When did you stop beating your wife?' I am an easy target. I'm a single man, I've never been married, and I work with children. I do not believe that I have ever harmed anyone.''
In the film, Harrah says that he had been molested when he was a child actor, but was vague about the details. ''I suppose somebody did, but I would be hard-pressed to remember anything specific,'' he said. ''But it was not uncommon, let's put it that way.''
A former child actor who served for many years with Harrah on the Young Performers Committee said he was surprised by the allegations against Harrah. ''It doesn't fit with the Michael Harrah I know,'' he said. ''No one ever came forward to me and said that Michael was trouble. He's an unusual person, to say the least, but his contributions to the welfare of children were genuine. He counseled many young people.''
One of Harrah's other former clients, a former child actor who is identified in the film only as James G., recounts how Harrah had invited him to come live at his home while trying to break into show business. ''You know,'' he says in the film, ''being up sometimes really early to go to these auditions and stuff, that's when Michael Harrah approached me and said, 'Well, you can come stay at my house with the other guys that are there.' He had three other guys stayin' in the house that were his clients.'' The kids' ages, he said, were ''from 10-11, to 16-17, but I still thought it was rather odd, you know, that someone would let their 10-year-old son move in with, at the time I think, a mid-50s-year-old man.''
''Many of the kids that I worked with,'' Harrah says in the film, ''couldn't have even been able to take advantage of being in the industry had they had to have their families move here with them.'' Even so, he said, ''I do see the possibility that things can be misinterpreted, and I try to be very aware of that. No matter how closely you're working with someone, and you do work closely with clients in these situations, there still has to be that professional line in there where you say, 'We're not stepping over this.' ''
Harrah told Deadline that there are currently young people ''in their 20s'' living with him. Asked if 11-year-old kids had ever lived with him, he said: ''There have been kids that come and go.''
In the film, he also attempts to explain how child molesters are sometimes misunderstood. ''So much of what goes on in these situations happen almost by accident,'' he said. ''You get the idea that someone out there was a child predator and they were preying on children and everything they did was to steer the child into this. A lot of the ones that I at least was aware of, they just sort of fell into it.'' And this is the advice he says he's given to child actors who have been molested: ''Where I've had the opportunity to talk to someone about it and said, 'Look, this is not a terrible thing unless you think it is. It's just something that happens to you in your life.' ''
Berg also got Harrah to admit that he had not complied with California's Child Performers Protection Act, which requires criminal background checks on managers, publicists and photographers who have unsupervised access to young performers.
''I have to confess that I haven't signed up yet myself and I should go and do that,'' he told Berg. ''I don't know. Is it going to be effective? We have yet to see. There's nobody running around saying to me, 'Have you signed up yet? Why not?' '' Indeed, that's the main problem with the well-intentioned law '' no one is enforcing it.
Asked if he'd signed up yet, he told Deadline: ''I haven't. I suppose I should. I don't know. The great thing about laws is that passing them is easy; doing something about them is another story.''
A few weeks after she interviewed Harrah, Berg spoke with SAG-AFTRA's Greenwalt. She wanted to know what, if anything, the guild planned to do about the troubling allegations she'd uncovered. Greenwalt followed up with an email, telling Berg that the guild is ''not a law enforcement organization, nor do we have the power to investigate crimes,'' and telling her that she should contact the proper authorities.
''I write to respond to the question you raised during our conversation yesterday,'' Greenwalt wrote. ''Although you did not tell us when you originally requested that we assist you in contacting one of our members for an interview, you apparently had information about alleged wrongdoing relating to a specific individual whom you eventually interviewed. In our conversation yesterday, you implied that unspecified inappropriate acts may have been committed by this individual with several unidentified child actors. If this is true, SAG-AFTRA would share the horror and outrage that any legitimate institution in our industry would have against such criminal conduct. At this point, you have presented no information or evidence of such wrongdoing. If you have such information or evidence, we strongly urge you to take it immediately to the appropriate law enforcement authorities so that they can investigate promptly and pursue the matter vigorously and prosecute, as appropriate, to the greatest extent the law allows. In our view, delaying reporting of meaningful, substantial information in the interest of furthering documentary production is an unwarranted risk to any children involved.''
Greenwalt told her that ''as a labor union, SAG-AFTRA negotiates and enforces collective bargaining agreements on behalf of our members and advocates for legislation and administrative policies benefitting the industry and our members. This has historically included particular efforts to protect young performers' financial security and ensure their safety on set.'' She assured her, however, that if the police turn up any evidence ''that SAG-AFTRA believes can be incorporated in our efforts to protect our members in their work environment, be assured that we will act on such.'' The guild, however, has no jurisdiction over child actors outside the workplace, where the vast majority of reported cases of sexual abuse of child actors has occurred.
''SAG would prefer an extremely narrow definition of the term 'workplace,' '' the producers said in a statement to Deadline. ''Being at the home of a member of their Young Performers Committee, a founding member, prominent person, for work purposes, for lessons, or on their way to an audition or something, is a more realistic definition of the term.''
Berg told that she called the cops on Harrah, but there is no record of it. ''First, I would like to assure you that we immediately brought all appropriate information to the attention of law enforcement when it originally became available to us,'' she told Greenwalt last June.
Harrah told Deadline that he has not been contacted by the police. Asked if the LAPD had received any complaints about Harrah, Rose Gaeta, a detective with the LAPD's sexually exploited child unit, told Deadline: ''We don't have anything on file that anything has ever been reported to the Los Angeles Police Department.''
In her letter to Greenwalt, Berg said: ''I understand that SAG-AFTRA is not a law enforcement agency and lacks the power to investigate. It is heartening that SAG-AFTRA is committed to act on any evidence revealed in the course of such an investigation. While SAG-AFTRA is certainly limited in its ability to investigate criminal acts, I believe it is still quite reasonable to ask whether SAG-AFTRA plans to pursue any sort of internal investigation or review of the actions performed by Mr. Harrah in his official capacity.''
Berg told her that ''An investigation or review would seem appropriate given that the allegations relate to actions taken against young performers. Mr. Harrah's work for SAG-AFTRA has encompassed policy and regulatory issues directly concerning the well being of young performers. Specifically, there has been an allegation that during an official meeting, while serving as vice-chair of the Young Performers Committee, Mr. Harrah acted to prevent SAG-AFTRA resources from being used to aid a police investigation into allegations of child abuse occurring within the entertainment industry.''
Asked if he'd ever lobbied to keep the union from spending resources to assist to assist such a police investigation, Harrah told Deadline: ''I don't recall anything specific.''
Berg, who is on a mission to force the industry to crack down on the abuse of child actors, urged the union to get more involved. ''I would greatly appreciate hearing how SAG-AFTRA plans to act moving forward,'' she told Greenwalt. ''Additionally, I would like to immediately begin a conversation about the subject of young performers' welfare in general and the steps that SAG-AFTRA can take to help solidify their safety. While supervision is available on set, unfortunately, professional relationships and trust can be exploited outside of a well-supervised and strictly professional context. As the premier professional organization advocating for and educating young performers about their right to a safe working environment, what does SAG-AFTRA do to ensure its youngest members are educated about the issues and risks they can face, even while pursuing their career off of a set, to ensure the safety they deserve?''
Greenwalt replied on September 18, telling Berg that the guild had yet to receive any information from her about Harrah's alleged misconduct '' nor a phone call from the police '' and that the guild was not about to embark on a ''witch hunt.''
''We are still waiting for your response to our direct request to provide us with any evidence or information you may have that supports your claim of wrongdoing,'' she wrote. ''To date, we have not received supporting evidence. With such evidence, SAG-AFTRA will take all appropriate steps available to us to investigate and/or to remedy a situation of possible harm facing a young performer, including cooperating with the appropriate authorities investigating the matter. We will not, however, embark on an unfounded witch hunt based on rumor and innuendo. We can only consider taking action if we have evidence or information that supports the allegation. We therefore reiterate our request for any evidence or additional information you may have that supports your allegation and we continue to urge you to go immediately to law enforcement and deliver to them any and all evidence at your disposal so that an appropriate investigation can be undertaken right away. Please note that it is our understanding that in order to avoid interfering with any active law enforcement investigation(s), internal investigations should be coordinated with law enforcement. As mentioned, SAG-AFTRA has not been contacted by any law enforcement agency relating to this matter. Therefore, we would appreciate you advising us of the law enforcement agency and/or individual you have contacted so we can reach out to them before taking additional action.''
In a statement to deadline, Greenwalt said: ''When this production was first brought to our attention, we specifically requested that the producer provide to us any information she had about potential bad acts and urged her to immediately take her information to law enforcement. She failed to present to us any information about her allegation. We are also unaware of any action taken by the producer to report this information to the police. Whether or not she did, we remain unaware of any action triggered by, or investigation commenced by law enforcement as a result of her allegations.''
Law enforcement never got involved, but after An Open Secret screened at the DOC NYC film festival in November, the lawyers did. ''SAG-AFTRA has received information from individuals who have seen one or more versions of An Open Secret that this documentary includes an interview of Michael Harrah overlaid by a chyron that identifies Mr. Harrah as a member of the SAG Young Performers Committee,'' guild attorney Mirell told Berg's lawyer. ''Please be advised that Mr. Harrah is not now '' and was not at the time this documentary was screened '' a member of, or in any other way affiliated with, the SAG-AFTRA Young Performers Committee. Whatever allegations may have been leveled against Mr. Harrah have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with SAG-AFTRA or any of its committees. However, since this chyron is clearly meant to suggest otherwise, demand is hereby made that any and all versions of An Open Secret be immediately re-edited to delete this chyron's reference to SAG and that no other references to SAG, to SAG-AFTRA, or to any SAG-AFTRA committees be included in any portions of this documentary.''
Berg, however, refused to re-edit the film. ''We have been advised that we do not need to make any edits to the film that SAG-AFTRA requested,'' the producers said in a statement to Deadline. ''Michael (Harrah) was current at time of the interview, which is how we believe he should correctly be labeled. We do note clearly in the end that Michael Harrah later resigned'...We were never given the date when Harrah officially resigned from SAG-AFTRA. We were only told 'within days' of the Harrah's interview with Amy Berg.''
In a statement, to Deadline, SAG's litigation attorney Mirell doubled down on his threat to sue. ''As the producers' attorneys conceded to me, there is no connection between SAG or SAG-AFTRA and any alleged misconduct,'' he said. ''In fact, we received a commitment from the producers' attorneys to edit out the inaccurate information of which we were then aware, and to make any additional edits to the documentary to prevent any possible claim of a connection between SAG or SAG-AFTRA and any alleged misconduct. If it turns out that the producers did not live up to this commitment, our firm has been authorized to pursue all appropriate legal remedies.''
SAG-AFTRA is mentioned early on in the film when Harrah says, ''I'm one of the founding members of the then-Screen Actors Guild Young Performers Committee '' now SAG-AFTRA '' and I have been a chair of the committee in the past. Now I'm just a foot soldier.''
The union's leaders wanted that removed from the film.
About halfway through the film, the union's Hollywood headquarters are show with a man walking in front of the big SAG-AFTRA One Union logo near the front door.
SAG-AFTRA wanted that out, too.
The union is mentioned again when Anne Henry, the co-founder of BizParentz Foundation, and one of the industry's leading advocates for the protection of child actors, related an incident that took place during a meeting of the Young Performers Committee in March 2005 after the Los Angeles Times ran a story about Bob Villard, a famous publicist and acting coach for many well-known child actors, who'd recently been arrested on child molestation charges.
''In a Screen Actors Guild meeting,'' Henry says in the film, ''we were all serving on the Young Performers Committee at the time, which is a national committee at the Screen Actors Guild, and another parent brought a news article from the LA Times that described Bob Villard's arrest, and the fact that the LA Police Department was looking for additional victims for Villard, and said, 'I request that SAG look into the idea of distributing this article or putting out an alert or something to their members, that it seems like a safety-related thing that we maybe should let everyone know.' And Michael Harrah had a very odd reaction that day. He vehemently opposed SAG getting involved. Harrah did not feel that SAG should be stepping forward, even in the wake of the LA Police Department asking for more victims. So SAG did not step forward and send the news out that day.''
SAG-AFTRA leaders wanted that removed from the film as well.
As Henry tells her story, the viewer sees an image of the SAG-AFTRA website's ''Safety Tips'' for the parents of child actors. The union also insisted that that be cut out of the film.
''I'm disappointed to hear that SAG-AFTRA officials initially felt the need to keep the truth from their members, and surprised that they would attempt to censor any film,'' Henry told Deadline. ''I trust that staffers now realize that SAG, as an organization, was victimized by predators, just as many of the parents and children in the film were. Predators use organizations like SAG to give themselves legitimacy, which they use, in turn, to get access to children. The protection of their brand should be secondary to the protection of their members. I am hopeful that all industry organizations, including SAG-AFTRA, will embrace the idea that they are vulnerable, and that they will view this film as a learning tool for their staff and members.''
Asked if he ever spoke out against the union offering assistance to a police investigation into allegations of child abuse in the entertainment industry, Harrah told Deadline: ''I think they have many priorities at this point that are more prevalent, but I have never seen a reluctance to do what they needed to do.''
''Well, I don't know that we've hidden them,'' Harrah says in the film about the victims of child molestation. ''I would think you would want to not hide it, but you would want to protect the child, whose identity is going to come out the more you play it out. A situation like this never helps anybody. And yes, the sooner we can get it under control, the better, but the less the child has to live with the stigma of it having happened, I think it's better for them, not only career-wise, but personally.''
Six months after Villard was arrested in 2005, SAG and AFTRA co-sponsored an educational workshop produced by the SAG Foundation about child safety and the threat posed to child actors by sexual predators.
SAG-AFTRA's litigation attorney also accused Berg of attempting to use the union to drum up publicity for her movie. ''It has likewise come to the attention of SAG-AFTRA,'' he wrote in an email to Berg's attorney, ''that Ms. Berg has repeatedly and deliberately attempted to draw SAG-AFTRA into her publicity and promotional efforts for An Open Secret by telling multiple reporters that they should contact SAG-AFTRA to find out 'what we were doing about' the issue of alleged child sexual abuse and exploitation in Hollywood.''
Complaining that Berg ''reportedly repeated the misidentification of Mr. Harrah as 'a member of the SAG Young Performers Committee' '' when discussing the film with reporters, Mirell said that ''an even more inflammatory and fallacious reference to Mr. Harrah as 'a SAG committee chief who manages child actors' is contained in an article that appeared in the online edition of the International Business Times.''
''All such false and misleading statements made in connection with any and all efforts to market, promote, advertise or otherwise publicize An Open Secret '' including all references to SAG SAG-AFTRA and/or any of its committees '' must immediately cease,'' he wrote.
Had Berg relented, viewers of the film would not have known that Harrah had been a co-founder of the Young Performers Committee; that he had served on it for the better part of 40 years; that he had chaired or vice-chaired it for many of those years, and that he was a sitting member of the committee when he was interviewed. The guild's litigation attorney even tried to keep his email a secret, warning Berg's attorney that it ''constitutes a confidential legal communication and may not be published in any manner.''
Berg, her attorney said, would not accede to the guild's demand. ''SAG-AFTRA is an extremely influential organization in the entertainment industry,'' he told the guild's lawyer. ''Mr. Harrah was a member of SAG's Young Performers Committee for decades '' he told Ms. Berg that he co-founded it in 1975 '' was a member of the committee when he allegedly engaged in improper conduct with a young actor who appears in the documentary, and was a member of the committee when Ms. Berg interviewed him about the sexual exploitation of minors in the entertainment industry. Under these circumstances, there is no legal requirement or editorial justification for stripping the documentary of any references to SAG, SAG-AFTRA, or the Young Performers Committee.''
By January, the guild had stopped ''demanding'' and started ''asking'' that it be removed from the film. ''The reason why we have asked that references to SAG, SAG-AFTRA and to any of its committees be removed from An Open Secret is because of the possibility that a reasonable viewer of this documentary will falsely conclude that the union or its Young Performers Committee somehow has some relationship to Mr. Harrah's allegedly improper conduct,'' the guild's attorney told Berg's attorney in an email dated January 27, 2015. ''In truth, of course, there is absolutely no connection whatsoever between Mr. Harrah's former service as a member of the SAG-AFTRA Young Performers Committee and any allegations of personal misconduct by him.''
The guild could have told that to reporters when they called, but instead it chose to threaten a lawsuit to have all references to the union removed from the film. If SAG-AFTRA had had its way, An Open Secret would have been a much shorter film.
Related'An Open Secret' Trailer Released As Producers Stand By Claims From Accuser Convicted Of Fraud
''SAG-AFTRA and the filmmakers are clearly on the same side in the fight to protect child actors,'' BizParentz's Henry told Deadline. ''Instead of threatening the filmmakers, the union's leaders should use the film to educate its members and the parents of child actors.''
Greenwalt, the union's spokesperson, maintains that the guild's ''demand'' that all references to SAG-AFTRA be removed from the film was not a threat to sue. In the next breath, however, she threatened to sue. ''While we reserve our rights to pursue litigation if this union is portrayed inaccurately, we have not yet threatened to sue this producer,'' she said in a statement. ''Nor did we attempt to suppress any factual or accurate information in this production. Rather, we requested that those errors, of which we became aware, were corrected, and that no reference to SAG-AFTRA be made that inaccurately ties this union to any alleged misconduct. Notably, the producers' attorneys' agreed to our request.''
In fact, the guild's leaders demanded that all references to the union and its Young Performers Committee be edited out of Berg's film, whether they were inaccurate or not. And Berg's attorney only agreed to change the way Harrah is identified in the film '' to put his service on the Young Performers Committee in the past tense, as he had resigned shortly after being interviewed by Berg. Berg's attorney did not, as the guild claims, agree to the that that all references to the guild be removed from the film.
For the record, Deadline gave the guild a chance to respond to all elements of this story on Thursday afternoon, and while Deadline was waiting for the guild's response, guild officials gave several exclusive elements of this article to The Hollywood Reporter, which last night posted a ''Now THR has learned'' story on its website.
It's the kind of duplicity and CYA that the guild has shown throughout this affair.
''On the whole, the multiple inaccuracies in this article portray SAG-AFTRA in a false light,'' Greenwalt said of this article. ''In fact, we have no connection whatsoever to any of the allegations made by this producer. The union has advocated for young performers interests for more than half a century. SAG-AFTRA and before it, SAG and AFTRA, included contract language specifically protecting minor performers on the set and has advocated for legislation and policies that protect young performers throughout the industry. In light of this we reject any insinuation that we are not acting to protect our members, particularly our youngest members, at all times.''
Except, of course, when those young members were living at the home of the former chairman and co-founder of the guild's Young Performers Committee.
CNN Unveils New Studio to Produce Content for Advertisers - WSJ
Mon, 08 Jun 2015 15:34
CNN is creating an in-house studio that will produce news-like content on behalf of advertisers, a move that reflects marketers' growing desire for articles and videos that feel like editorial work.
About a dozen staffers (made up of journalists, filmmakers and designers) will help launch the new unit, called Courageous. The division will fashion and distribute ''branded content'' across CNN's fleet of properties, from TV to the Web and newer platforms like Snapchat.
This isn't the first foray into branded content for CNN, which is owned by Time Warner Inc.'s Turner Broadcasting. CNN's recent push into more digital video yielded 18 original series last year, 17 of which are sponsored by a company.
But the idea now is to work more closely with companies to highlight things that may have news value, such as the building of a manufacturing plant or a philanthropic effort, according to Otto Bell, the lead of the studio and former creative director at OgilvyEntertainment.
Mr. Bell said that his team would be staffed with ''folks who have journalistic instincts'' who would go into a company and ''find that newsworthy element and extract that.''
CNN's new endeavor comes as more media companies invest in creating these types of in-house shops to help bolster revenue. Music companies like iHeartMedia and Pandora offer branded content studios, and news companies from the New York Times to BuzzFeed to The Wall Street Journal have units that create advertiser content. Cond(C) Nast recently launched a program where magazine editors work directly with brands.
These undertakings often raise church-and-state questions about the divide between the editorial and business sides of a company.
''This isn't about confusing editorial with advertising,'' said Dan Riess, executive vice president of integrated marketing and branded content at Turner. ''This is about telling advertisers' stories '-- telling similar stories but clearly labeling that and differentiating that.''
Mr. Riess said CNN's trustworthiness when it comes to news was part of the reason Courageous would be attractive to advertisers.
''This is CNN. We're not here to blur the lines,'' he said.
The new offering comes weeks after Turner made its ''upfront'' presentation to advertisers, which the broadcaster used to showcase new programs as well as the company's data chops.
Mr. Riess added that, thanks to the company's data-focused approach, CNN has the ability to give a brand's content wide distribution and then report back on the extent to which it's driving consumer interest.
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Belgian police carry out raids on suspected Islamist extremists: government
Mon, 08 Jun 2015 14:54
BRUSSELS Belgian police on Monday carried out 21 raids on targets linked to suspected Chechen Islamist extremists, the Belgian government said, with local media reporting 16 people had been detained.
The raids took place in different Belgian locations and were part of an investigation into Islamist extremism, the government added.
"I'm full of praise for the job our police and justice departments have done, which have repeatedly shown that the government is determined to combat terrorism," Prime Minister Charles Michel said in a statement.
In January, Belgian police killed two men who opened fire on them during a series of raids against an Islamist group that federal prosecutors said was about to launch "terrorist attacks on a grand scale".
(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)
WASHINGTON - With his bare-chested swagger and wily geopolitical moves, Republican presidential hopefuls are using Vladimir Putin to attack the Democrats on foreign policy. Full Article
Our top news photos from the past 24 hours. Slideshow
Record cold night temperatures in June for Twente and Eindhoven in the Netherlands
Mon, 08 Jun 2015 14:39
(C) Wikimedia Commons/ErkahaThermometer
Saturday night was a record cold night for both Twente and Eindhoven. But despite this brief bout of cold, warmer weather is expected for later this week.Twente measured -2.2 degrees on Saturday night, the Gelderlander reports. The measurement was done at 10 centimeter height from the ground. According to the newspaper, the cold weather can partly be attributed to the cool sea air from the Northwest.
Eindhoven measured 0.2 degrees overnight on Saturday, also a record for this time of year. "For this time of year this is very exceptional", Dana Woei of Weerplaza said.
These cold records follow an extremely hot day on Friday, when temperatures reached above 30 degrees in some places in the Netherlands. Temperatures dropped again on Saturday, with some places not even reaching 20 degrees for maximum temperature.
The next few days are expected to be cloudy and cool, but the warm weather should return later this week, the Telegraaf reports. On Wednesday and Thursday temperatures are expected to rise to between 20 and 25 degrees, with an even warmer day on Friday. The weather will be cooler again over the weekend, with showers and thunderstorms expected.
Secretary of State John Kerry v. His Subordinate Victoria Nuland, Regarding Ukraine RINF Alternative News & Alternative Media
Mon, 08 Jun 2015 13:02
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on May 12th, responding to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's assertions that Ukraine will retake Crimea and will conquer Donbass:
''I have not had a chance '' I have not read the speech. I haven't seen any context. I have simply heard about it in the course of today. But if indeed President Poroshenko is advocating an engagement in a forceful effort at this time, we would strongly urge him to think twice not to engage in that kind of activity, that that would put Minsk in serious jeopardy. And we would be very, very concerned about what the consequences of that kind of action at this time may be.''
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European & Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, as communicated by the U.S. State Department's Press Office on May 15th, reiterating Poroshenko's view:
''Assistant Secretary Nuland's ongoing visit to Kyiv and her discussions with Prime Minister [Arseniy] Yatseniuk and President [Petro] Poroshenko reaffirm the United States' full and unbreakable support for Ukraine's government, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine and reiterate our deep commitment to a single Ukrainian nation, including Crimea, and all the other regions of Ukraine.''
Will John Kerry reprimand his subordinate for her contradicting what he, her boss, had said three days earlier? If not, then will President Barack Obama fire his Secretary of State John Kerry? If not, then will Victoria Nuland be fired? If not, then who is to trust anything that comes from the U.S. State Department, when the Secretary of State can be contradicted three days later by his subordinate, and both remain in their respective jobs?
Republicans are already preparing to weaken Kerry over this. The far-right news-site ''Frontpage Mag'' headlined on May 21st, ''John Kerry's Seven Hours of Weakness in Russia,'' and condemned the ''attempt by Kerry to re-set the 're-set' button [on U.S. policy toward Russia] first pushed by his predecessor, Hillary Clinton.'' The special subject of their ire: ''The promise of 'rolling back' the mild sanctions regime the West imposed on Russia on account of Putin's annexation of Crimea and support of separatist rebels was bandied about, if only Russia would behave in the future.'' But winning changes in behavior is what international diplomacy is supposed to be all about '-- otherwise the State Department wouldn't even be needed, and only the Pentagon would handle America's foreign relations.
If Victoria Nuland stays in her job, then John Kerry will be neutered even if he's not fired.
The only person with the power to fire Nuland is actually U.S. President Barack Obama. Perhaps the request for him to do that is already on his desk. If it's not, then Kerry's job is in jeopardy, because his diplomatic efforts can be obliterated by a subordinate and that subordinate will suffer no penalty for doing this. Nobody then would respect anything that the U.S. Secretary of State says, because it wouldn't necessarily represent the President's policies. If the Secretary of State isn't backed up by the President, then the Secretary of State has no real power at all.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity, and of Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.
Remarks by the President in Krun, Germany
Mon, 08 Jun 2015 12:10
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 07, 2015
Kr¼n, Germany10:54 A.M. CEST
THE PRESIDENT: Gruess gott! (Applause.) It is wonderful to be back in Germany for my fourth visit as President. And to my great friend and partner, Chancellor Merkel; to Mayor Schwarzenberger and the people of Kr¼n and Cree; to the people of Germany -- thank you for welcoming me here today and for the incredible hospitality and the incredible beauty of this place. (Applause.)
I want to thank everybody for this wonderful visit to this beautiful village. I know it's a lot of hard work when I come to town. (Laughter.) That was, without question, the best alphorn performance I've ever heard. I have to admit that I forgot to bring my lederhosen. But I'm going to see if I can buy some while I'm here. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, I must admit that when I first learned that Angela was going to host the G7 in Bavaria, I was hoping that it would fall during Oktoberfest. But, then again, there's never a bad day for a beer and a weisswurst. (Laughter.) And I can't think of a better place to come to celebrate the enduring friendship between the German and American people. (Applause.)
I come here grateful for the history that we share. And so much of America -- including my hometown of Chicago -- would not be the same without the contributions of so many German immigrants, including from Bavaria. Over the years, Bavaria and Germany have returned the favor by welcoming countless Americans -- including generations of our servicemembers and students from the George Marshall Center. And on behalf of the American people, I want to thank you for your gracious hospitality. (Applause.)
So over the next two days in Schloss Elmau, we're going to discuss our shared future -- a global economy that creates jobs and opportunity; maintaining a strong and prosperous European Union; forging new trade partnerships across the Atlantic; standing up to Russian aggression in Ukraine; combating threats from violent extremism to climate change. And on all these issues, we are very grateful for the partnership and leadership of your Chancellor, Angela Merkel. (Applause.)
These are all difficult challenges. But part of what gives me hope is the example of Germany. This year marks 70 years since the end of World War II -- and decades of a great NATO Alliance. It marks 25 years since the unification of Germany that inspired the world. The fact that all of us are here together today is proof that conflicts can end and great progress is possible.
So this morning, as we celebrate one of the strongest alliances the world has ever known, my message to the German people is simple: We are so grateful for your friendship, for your leadership. We stand together as inseparable allies -- in Europe and around the world. (Applause.)
My only final request for Angela is that, on such a beautiful day, instead of being inside, we should have all our summit meetings in this incredible village center -- and drink beer. (Laughter.) But I think we'll have to negotiate with the security people. (Laughter.)
Vielen dank. (Applause.)
END 11:03 A.M. CEST