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Monday, 8 December 2014

Brutal police beating of model shocks Australia

Sydney police

© Reuters/Darren Whiteside

A video showing three Sydney police officers brutally beating a young woman has gone viral, with over 750,000 views on Facebook. During the clip, the victim is repeatedly hit with a police baton and appears to be kicked in the head by a male officer.

Police brutality has been hitting the headlines in the US , but now it seems the unfortunate trend has made its way to Australia. The woman in question, Claire Helen, who works as a model and actress and was on the receiving end of recurring blows from a police officer, said: "It was the most frightening and humiliating experience of my life."

Law enforcement officers allege that Helen punched a policewoman in the mouth, as well as resisting arrest - an action that the model stringently denies. "They pushed me down. They hit me and kicked me. They pulled my dress over my head," she said, speaking to Channel Nine. Onlookers could be heard shouting, "Let her go," and, "She's not resisting arrest."

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Helen, who is 1 meter, 60 centimeters tall and weighs 55 kilograms, insists she was just enjoying a quiet night out when she was accosted by law enforcement officers, who were much bigger than her.

"We weren't drunk. We'd been with people playing soccer and went out to have a few drinks. I'm not the sort of person who goes out getting pissed on a Wednesday night. I'm trying to make it as a model and actress. I can't go out every night getting wasted. I definitely don't ever get in circumstances like this," she told Channel Nine news.

The incident happened in the Kings Cross area of Sydney, which is home to a number of bars and nightclubs, after Helen and a group of friends haggled over a taxi fare, according to police. The law enforcement agency also added that a male member of the group punched the taxi driver in the stomach.

However, Helen alleges that the taxi driver had charged the group the wrong amount, which led to the trouble starting.

"He had the meter running before we got in, so we got out," she said. "He said something to us and we said something back, but then he pushed one of my friends and called the police. Then the police showed up and you saw what happened," she added, Channel Nine reported.

The video has taken the internet by storm and has already been viewed by over three quarters of a million people on Facebook. Many users criticized Helen and defended the police. One woman wrote: "She deserved it. You're supposed to respect your elders and respect the law," with another adding, "She's not resisting arrest?? Really... I thought that if you weren't resisting they would've had the cuffs on you 1 sec into the video... she got what she deserved.... hopefully that taught her a lesson."

Kings Cross Superintendent Michael Fitzgerald said he was satisfied police had used appropriate force, adding: "Police are not punching bags, neither are taxi drivers."

 Darlinghurst Rd, Kings Cross, Sydney

© wikipedia.org

Darlinghurst Rd, Kings Cross, Sydney

He added that police have reviewed CCTV footage of the incident, and they say it justified why they took such a heavy-handed approach.

"I have viewed the footage that has been uploaded on social media," Fitzgerald said. "But I've also had the opportunity to view the entire CCTV from the City of Sydney cameras which shows the entire incident. [It] clearly shows the female offender punch the female police officer in an unprovoked assault which caused the wrestle that you see on YouTube," Fitzgerald added, ABC News reported.

The officer who repeatedly struck Helen with a police baton will not face any charges, police said. Helen and three men have been arrested with a range of offences, including assaulting a police officer, assault, affray and resisting arrest. They have been granted bail until a court hearing on January 6.

Israel bombs Syria's infrastructure again and further assists ISIS

© Unknown

The Israeli air force reaping death and destruction in Gaza last summer during Operation Ethnic Cleansing 2.0 They are now just a hair-breadth's away from directly killing innocent Syrian civilians in the same way.

On Sunday December 7, Israel reportedly launched airstrikes inside Syria yet again, this time very close to Damascus in the area near Damascus International airport. Israeli airstrikes also took place in the town of Dimas which is located close to the Lebanese border.

At this time, Israel has yet to comment on the airstrikes.

Syrian state television has stated that "The Israeli enemy committed aggression against Syria by targeting two safe areas in Damascus province, in all of Dimas and near the Damascus International Airport."

State news agency SANA also stated that the strikes were a "flagrant attack on Syria."

Lebanese state news agencies have reported that Israeli jets "breached its airspace" on Sunday.

Reuters reports that "Residents in Damascus said they heard loud explosions and opposition activists posted photos online of jet streams in the evening sky and fiery explosions. Syria's army general command said on state television that there were "material losses in some facilities." It said the strike benefited al Qaeda."

Further reports suggest that the targets of the Israeli jets were an agricultural airport in Dimas and an import-export warehouse in Damascus. Both of these locations are under control of the Syrian military and involve supplies and food greatly needed for the Syrian people.

These targets, of course, fit in with the larger trend of both Israeli and American airstrikes in Syria in the past that have targeted civilian locations, Syrian infrastructure, Syrian oil refineries, and, particularly, food centers such as grain silos.

While airstrikes are conducted under the guise of defeating ISIS, the fact is that these airstrikes have done little to even inconvenience the terrorist organization which itself is funded, directed, trained, armed, and controlled by the U.S., NATO, and the GCC . The airstrikes have been largely aimed at Syrian military interests as well as necessities of the Syrian people.

The attacks come as the Western-backed forces of the Islamic State launched a major assault on the Syrian air base in Deir el-Zour. That attack was ultimately repelled and defeated by the Syrian army.

This is by no means the first time that Israel has attacked Syria in support of the Western-backed terrorists or even the first time that it has done so in coordination with them.

For instance, on October 30, 2013, Israel attacked and completely destroyed a Syrian air defense base in Snobar Jableh, Syria which is located near Latakia, a port city on the coast of the Mediterranean. The base was alleged to have housed a surface-to-air missile battery.

It is also known that Israel launched attacks against Syrian forces and military convoys at least four times prior to the October 30 attack.

As recently as June, 2014, Israel launched a series of airstrikes against Syrian military positions under the pretext of retaliation for a cross-border attack which was almost certainly initiated by death squad fighters whose logistical inadequacy spilled over into Israeli occupied territory in the Golan Heights. Given the questionable circumstances surrounding the justifying incident - the killing of an Israeli teenager by an alleged anti-tank missile - one would be justified in questioning the Israeli story.

While the occasional attack on Syrian territory is bad enough, the fact is that Israel has apparently coordinated these attacks with the death squad directors on the ground so as to provide cover fire and diversions for death squad "swarming" and jihadist invasions.

For instance, in May 2013, WABC host and best-selling author Aaron Klein stated that an Israeli airstrike in Syria was closely coordinated with Turkey which, in turn, helped coordinate the death squad attacks to occur at the exact same time as the Israeli airstrikes. The sources speaking to Klein came from Jordanian and Egyptian intelligence agencies.

Klein wrote,

Israel's air strike in Syria today was coordinated with Turkey, which in turn coordinated rebel attacks throughout Syria timed to coincide with the Israeli strike, according to Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence sources speaking to KleinOnline. The sources said the rebels did not know about the Israeli strike in advance but instead were given specific instructions for when to begin today's major assaults against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. "Almost the moment the Israel Air Force departed was the moment the rebel advance began," added the Egyptian intelligence source. Multiple reports have noted how the Syrian rebels consist in large part of al-Qaida-linked jihad groups. The Egyptian and Jordanian sources described how immediately after today's Israeli air strike the jihadist rebels used access roads to advance toward Damascus and began heavy clashes with Syrian military forces throughout the country.

Some have speculated that Israel's continued incursions into Syrian territory is not only an attempt to weaken the military forces of the Syrian government and support the terrorists operating inside the country but to cause Syria's air defense system to light up and give away its concealed positions. Regardless, Israel has once again demonstrated how it is, in reality, the most volatile state in the Middle East despite its claims to the contrary.

UNICEF declares 2014 a devastating year for children due to global conflicts and disease

© REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Kurdish refugee girls from the Syrian town of Kobani play in a refugee camp in the Turkish border town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province November 13, 2014.

The United Nations children's agency UNICEF declared 2014 a devastating year for children on Monday with as many as 15 million caught in conflicts in Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and the Palestinian territories.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said the high number of crises meant many of them were quickly forgotten or failed to capture global headlines, such as in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Globally, UNICEF said some 230 million children were living in countries and regions affected by armed conflict.

"Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds; they have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves," Lake said in a statement. "Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable brutality."

Significant threats also emerged to children's health and well-being like the deadly outbreak of Ebola in the West African countries Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which has left thousands orphaned and some 5 million out of school.

"Violence and trauma do more than harm individual children - they undermine the strength of societies," Lake said.

© Reuters

A Turkish soldier carries a Syrian Kurdish refugee baby from the Syrian border town Kobani, near the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province in this October 2, 2014 file photo.

In Central African Republic, where tit-for-tat sectarian violence has displaced one-fifth of the population, some 2.3 million children are affected by the conflict with up to 10,000 believed to have been recruited by armed groups during the past year and more than 430 killed or maimed, UNICEF said.

Some 538 children were killed and 3,370 injured in the Palestinian Gaza Strip during a 50-day war between Israeli troops and Hamas militants, it said.

In Syria, UNICEF said more than 7.3 million children have been affected by the civil war, including 1.7 million who fled the country. In neighboring Iraq an estimated 2.7 million children have been affected by conflict, it added, with at least 700 believed to have been maimed or killed this year.

"In both countries, children have been victims of, witnesses to and even perpetrators of increasingly brutal and extreme violence," UNICEF said.

Some 750,000 children have been displaced in South Sudan with 320,000 living as refugees. The United Nations said more than 600 children have been killed and more than 200 maimed this year, while some 12,000 are being used by armed groups.

Terror attacks in Russia: Made in the USA? It sure looks like it!


The latest terror attacks in Russia are not, in themselves, news. This may sound odd to those who have endured them, but they are no different to any number of previous attacks. What IS news is that the world might finally be waking up to what is going on.

The same great programme to destabilise the Russian Federation and the countries friendly to it has been a dominant underlying feature of international relations since the end of the Cold War. Having spent so many years training its military to attack the Evil Empire, the West found itself with nothing left to do when the Soviet system imploded.

The West could only justify its existence by inventing new enemies and trying to destroy them in the same old way. There didn't have to be a reason: the mindset had to be preserved within the military to stop it being let loose on Western streets.

When you can't find enough grounds to attack people with regulars, you use irregulars you can wash your hands of: the principle of state-sponsored terrorism, a term the US coined to describe the actions of groups it conveniently put there to begin with.


The latest terrorist attack in Southern Russia might have done more to harm this Western programme than any similar stunt. It comes as no surprise to those who know the history of the Chechen irregulars who keep appearing when someone needs to be blamed, including those credited with belonging to ISIL. The US may finally discover, by using the same old methods, that you can cry wolf too often.

Vladimir Putin's initial rise to power was largely driven by his crushing of an Islamist insurgency in Chechnya. At this time, the city of Grozny became an internationally-known buzzword for lawless slaughter. Say "Grozny" and everyone assumes that uncontrolled terror is loose once again. Its historical associations are designed to disguise the similarity of this attack, which has left at least 20 dead, including 10 policemen, with what is happening in Syria and Ukraine, and how the sanctions against the RF are not working as anticipated.

At a cost of only nine terrorists, the West has sent a warning to the Russian Federation. It is designed to make Putin think, "We can hit you when we want and where we want, so you'd better pull back your support and cave in to the sanctions and wrath of the West." Putin might be presumed to know this already though, given his longstanding concern over NATO encircling Russia with bases.

The implication of attacking Chechnya is that everyone will think this is an internal Russian matter, not involving the West, so will stop listening to Putin's objections to NATO aggression. But what was going to happen was carefully planned long ago, and all the evidence is there in print. The likelihood is that before long the world will see this as an internal US matter, not an internal Russian one.

The fingers

The blueprint was published in , based in Tbilisi, on April 29, 2013. The article was entitled 'Shared Interests in the War on Terror: from Beslin to Boston'.

In it, Hyman Kamenowsky laid bare the nexus between Chechens and "terrorists", and how this has been manufactured in events such as the Boston Bombing. Assuming this idea has been swallowed, despite the backlash which has since emerged to the shoddily concocted case against the unarmed and uninvolved Tsarnaev brothers in Boston (when did you last see crucial evidence filmed by a news cameraman wearing sunglasses as he operated his camera?) the compliant mainstream media has pushed a follow-up agenda since.

The standard narrative is that Chechen fighters in Syria have been threatening to retaliate against Putin for his full support of Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, so this must be behind this attack. The trouble is, the quoted threats have come from Chechens who have roots in, and connections with, Georgia.

The Pankisi Gorge in Georgia has long been a US-run terrorist training camp, in which a previously negligible Chechen population was greatly boosted by a number of relatively wealthy compatriots who suddenly wanted to settle in this remote valley. They were armed under the US Train and Equip Program and money siphoned off from various NGOs.

We know this because the Georgian Army, the supposed customer, never saw this training and equipment, but Chechen operatives suddenly emerged from the valley to fight in every conflict the US was interested in. They fought the US way, for the just cause, or so say the US Defense Fellows and professors from George Washington and other universities wrote the manuals they used.

Chechens might be presumed to have broader interests - for example, defending their Moslem Circassian brothers, who never cease highlighting historic grievances and demanding justice for them by whatever means. But the US isn't interested in those disputes, so no armed Chechens appear to take up that cause.

was running investigative stories about these terrorist links 14 years ago. Some of the US-supported Chechen rebels identified in these were subsequently responsible for carrying out the deadly Beslan school massacre and the Moscow theatre siege.

The US has had strong strategic links with Georgia since it hijacked its independence in 1992. It can't claim not to have known of these links when it monitors the Georgian press daily, and made sure that owner Malkhaz Gulashvili was imprisoned for non-existent crimes, (i.e., they are not listed as offences in the Criminal Code of Georgia or any other country), when his criticism of US golden boy Mikheil Saakashvili became too blatant.

There is such a thing as old news. After a while, no one cares who is who in any conflict and where right and wrong lie, they want to think about something else. The Grozny connection is intended to grab international headlines, but seems to have had the opposite effect.

This attack has not yet been accompanied by a raft of stories about the good old days of lawlessness in Chechnya. It now seems that no one wants to have all that dragged up again, and wants to know why it has been.

Once, in an interview, former British Labour Party leader Michael Foot tried to point out how biased the British press was by citing the publication of the Zinoviev Letter, a probably forged Moscow directive to British Communists to start a revolution. This had happened almost sixty years before. The public saw Foot's comments as being about his own hangups, not what the press was like. Waving the red flag of Grozny is now having the same effect.

The ink

The casual assumption that everyone will think that Chechens acting independently are behind every atrocity is something the US has to hold. If things are more complicated than that, the complications of U.S. actions might equally be recognised.

This latest incident was designed to embarrass President Putin hours before he delivered his State of the Nation speech in Moscow. This has however backfired for two reasons. Firstly, few people connected these two things. Secondly, Putin derived much of his initial support from his successful resistance of the Islamic insurgency designed to undermine him. Another lot of Chechen terrorists is another reminder of Putin's victory, not terrorism itself.

If this attack is recognised as the stunt it is, and a pattern of foul play begins to be suspected, people will start asking a few other questions about these terrorists. Like how Saudi nationals have suddenly appeared in Pankisi, rather than the radical madrassas, exchanging their oil-driven comfort for the extremes of the Georgian winter. Like how commander Imran Akhmadov has since been revealed as a CIA operative personally controlled by the wife of Sandro Kvitaskhvili, the Georgian member (!) of the new Ukrainian Government.

Like how Nikol Jordania was working with USAID at the time the Pankisi Gorge was first set up as a training centre, took control of various humanitarian projects and used them as a funding mechanism to pay for the training of some of the more radical elements, as close reading of the project reports, backed up by the entirely different observation on the ground, testifies.

Like how many of those involved in the Maidan Square disturbances, including the media PR team working with the US State Department, were soon relocated to Georgia where they provide support for Saakashvili's often-touted attempt at an unconstitutional comeback and its suspicious links to the resignation of Defence Minister Irakli Alasania and the "army loyalists" who have gone with him.

But of course terrorists aren't that sophisticated. They are maniacs and the US is order. So terrorists can't be in league with the US. If the link is too obvious, the terrorists are just given another name: Contras was one name people remember, KLF another.

Giving Chechen terrorists a proper name would give respectability to the Chechen independence cause overnight, and may end up having a far greater negative impact on Russia. But the more the US fails in Ukraine and Syria, the more it has to convince itself that the trusted methods work, though it will soon be only itself it is convincing.


As science boffin James Burke once pointed out, there is a big difference between the first bomb and the ones which explode after people stop counting. When you get used to them going off, they are no longer news you are interested in hearing about, you just want them to go away.

The US has played the Chechen terrorist card so often that people only hear yet another US rant about Chechen guerrillas or fighters. The US knows this at one level, which is why it invoked the spirit of a conflict people were once interested in. But it has to keep resorting to such measures because it still can't survive without enemies, having long ago discarded the one thing which could have replaced them - the positive values it claims to have, in whose name all its terrorism by proxy is committed. It is necessary to keep in mind that America's "freedom fighters" are another's terrorists.

Chechnya's Governor Kadirov has said that they knew an attack was coming, but it should have happened on December 12 since it's a national holiday. The so-called Chechen terrorist threat has become as much of a joke as the nightly shelling of Taiwan by China, which was carried on symbolically for over 30 years after the communist takeover, with no intention of actually harming anyone. The US changed the date to punish Russia for supporting the wrong people in Syria and Ukraine, but no one in those countries seems to care, either.

We've seen it all before, so often that we wonder why the US keeps going on about it. The West will have to find some new trick soon, or people will start thinking about Russia in terms of its economic strength and contributions to art and literature, and wonder what a terrorist is.

Putin's pipeline genius, and EU's laughable stupidity

putin erdogan

South Stream, the $45 billion project to deliver Russian natural gas via underwater pipeline through the Black Sea to Bulgaria and on to other Balkan and southern European markets, is dead. Russian President Vladimir Putin made the death pronouncement on December 1, during a trip to Turkey to meet Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It has major geopolitical and economic consequences for the EU.

As Putin explained, "If Europe doesn't want to realize this, then it means it won't be realized. We will redirect the flow of our energy resources to other regions of the world. We couldn't get necessary permissions from Bulgaria, so we cannot continue with the project. We can't make all the investment just to be stopped at the Bulgarian border," Putin said. "Of course, this is the choice of our friends in Europe."

The Russian President didn't waste a minute to show how he plans that redirection. The real loser is not Russia, but the EU who managed yet again to shoot themselves in the foot by their buckling under to Washington pressure from Victoria Nuland's State Department and the Obama Administration hawks. The South Stream would have provided secure delivery to southern EU countries including Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Croatia and also Serbia. It would avoid the current transit pipelines running through Ukraine. Similarly, to avoid a repeat of the US-induced Ukrainian disruptions of Russian gas to the EU in 2009, Russia and Germany agreed the construction of Nord Stream, also avoiding Ukraine.

Now, by forcing Bulgaria, an EU member, to halt South Stream, using blackmail of a Bulgarian bank bailout last June, the EU has made itself dependent on gas security via Ukraine, a country the EU's own political spinelessness has helped turn into a failed state ruled by a cabal of Brussels-and-Washington backed gangsters and oligarchs. We might use the term "stupid" to describe EU policy on South Stream, were it not for the fact at the end of the day Washington blackmail on the EU caused the South Stream blockage policy to be implemented, just as the economically devastating EU Russia sanctions were imposed only after extreme pressure on Berlin and Paris by Washington.

Bringing Turkey closer to Eurasia

Russia and Turkey have just signed an agreement to expand the existing Russian Blue Stream gas pipeline to Turkey by an immediate 3 billion cubic meters to the current 13.7 bcm of gas pumped to Turkey via Blue Stream, for a total near 17 bcm.

Putin also announced a fascinating new option, to build a gas hub on the Turkish-Greek border to supply Europe with gas to compensate for the loss of South Stream. He told the press, "We are ready to not only expand the Blue Stream, but to build another pipeline system to supply the growing demand of the Turkish economy, and if it is deemed justified, to set up an additional gas hub for the South European consumers on Turkish territory, near the border with Greece."

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller revealed that he has signed a memorandum of understanding on building a new Turkey-bound pipeline under the Black Sea, with capacity to pump 63 billion cubic meters to Turkey, about equal to the now-defunct South Stream.

If we follow the motion of his feet and not so much his mouth, Erdogan is above all a pragmatic political survivor. Internal conflict, above all with the CIA-linked Fetullah Gülen movement as I detail in , has increased distance between Erdogan and Washington despite Turkey's NATO membership. Until now, Washington's neo-conservatives Richard L. Morningstar, now Ambassador to Azerbijan, had relied on an obedient Turkey as an alternative to carry gas or oil from Azerbaijan independent of Russia.

If Erdoğan accepts the Russian offer of forming an energy alliance, it would mark a sharp policy change for Turkey, a geopolitical shift of immense importance and Erdogan knows as much, even if he seems to have a confused idea of a clear strategy for Turkey. A Russian-Turkey energy hub on the Greek border would signal a decisive change of strategy by Erdogan. A significant hint of that was contained in the statement that the new gas supplies to Turkey from Russia will be paid in local currencies, not in the US dollar. Turkey already is Russia's largest foreign gas customer after Germany. Erdogan has also asked to be accepted in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization led by Russia and China.

Another drone near-miss with passenger plane at Heathrow


© AFP Photo/Bertrand Langlois

A passenger airplane almost collided with an unidentified drone near Heathrow marking the first such incident in the biggest UK airline hub's history, British media revealed on Sunday citing a report due to be published next week.

An Airbus A320 which can carry 180 passengers avoided a collision with a drone on July 22 at 2.16 pm flying at an altitude of 700 feet, the Sunday Times reported.

It said that the official report is due to be published on Friday. UK Airprox Board (Ukab), which investigates all cases of reported near-misses, said the incident was of A category - the highest in five ranks assigned by the watchdog.

In its risk level assessments Ukab evaluates A category as "risk of collision: aircraft proximity in which serious risk of collision has existed," according to its website.

The unmanned aerial vehicle did not show on air traffic control radar so investigators were unable to identify it and the case relied on the pilot's testimony, a source told the newspaper.

"A 10-kilogram metallic object hitting an engine would cause some pretty bad damage. It is more than theoretical - it is a real risk," said Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa). "They are also generally distracting at the most crucial stage of a flight when pilots are coming in to land."

"These are pretty heavy objects if you are going at speed. If they were to get ingested into engines, you could have a Hudson River experience [when a bird strike forced a plane to ditch in the river in New York in 2009], or they might hit the cockpit window and crack it," he added.

The official said that the sales of drones have seen a surge with

With the Christmas season just ahead, drones are gaining popularity as a present, UK media reported.

BEST OF THE WEB: #ICantBreathe - Comedian Jon Stewart on Eric Garner grand jury decision: 'The idea that we live in a society, much less a post-racial society, is a joke'

John Stewart couldn't find anything to laugh about following the grand jury non-indictment of NYPD cops murdering black man Eric Garner

It's part of Jon Stewart's job to make comedy out of the terrible things happening in the world, but even he was unable to find anything to laugh at following a grand jury's decision not to indict the cop who killed Eric Garner.

He only got to covering the situation in Ferguson after being on vacation last week, but at least there was something for him to poke fun at in regards to the Twitter war between the St. Louis Rams and the St. Louis Police Officers Association. The Eric Garner case hit closer to home, just over in Staten Island.

As people began to gather outside to protest the decision in New York City and around the country, Stewart admitted defeat. Despite the footage and the coroner's ruling that Garner's death was a homicide, the grand jury ruled against indictment, just like with Michael Brown.

"I don't know. I honestly don't know what to say. If comedy is tragedy plus time, I need more fucking time. But I would really settle for less fucking tragedy to be honest with you."

Is intelligent design the answer? Laying out the evolutionary logic


Monday we published a paper in the journal BIO-Complexity that demonstrates that enzymes can't evolve genuinely new functions by unguided means. We argue that design by a very sophisticated intelligent agent is the best explanation for their origin. I want to take some time to lay out our argument against evolution and for intelligent design. It's important, because it reveals the logical fallacy in most evolutionary thinking.

Just to give an example of the evolutionary thinking of ID critics, here is a quote from one of the references in our paper (Kherhonsky et al (2006) Enzyme promiscuity: Evolutionary and mechanistic aspects. 10:498-508).

An oft-forgotten essence of Darwinian processes is that they occur gradually, while maintaining organism fitness throughout. Consequently, a reasonable assumption is that, ever since the emergence of the primordial living forms, very little novelty has evolved at the molecular level. Rather, existing genes were modified, or 'tinkered with', to generate new protein structures and functions that are related to those of their ancestors. Unlike 'out of the blue' scenarios advocated by the 'intelligent design' school, 'tinkering' scenarios depend on the availability of evolutionary starting points. The hypothesis that the broad specificity, or promiscuous functions, of existing enzymes provide these starting points was first formalized by Jensen in a review that has inspired many. Jensen proposed that, in contrast to modern enzymes, primitive enzymes possessed very broad specificities. This catalytic versatility enabled fewer enzymes to perform the multitude of functions that was necessary to maintain ancestral organisms. Duplication of genes and divergence led to specialized genes and increased metabolic efficiency. Since Jensen, the structures of >30,000 proteins, and the sequences of hundreds of thousands, have taught us that these processes led to the creation of enzyme families and superfamilies. The vestiges of these divergence processes are the scaffold and active site architecture shared by all family members.

To summarize, the key points of that evolutionary argument are:

  1. Evolution is true. That is, enzymes have evolved new functions by a process of random mutation and natural selection.

  2. Modern enzymes can't evolve genuinely new functions by random mutation and natural selection but can only tinker with existing functions.

  3. Therefore, ancient enzymes must have been different, capable of carrying out a broad range of enzyme activities.

  4. Those enzymes underwent duplication and diverged from one another, becoming specialized.

  5. How do we know this happened? Because we now see a broad array of specialized enzymes. Evolution is the explanation.

This begs the question of whether evolution is true. It is a circular argument unsubstantiated by the evidence and unfalsifiable. No one can know what ancient enzymes actually looked like, and whether they really had such broad catalytic specificities.

In contrast, our argument is as follows:

  1. Is evolution true? Test case: do enzymes evolve by a process of natural selection and random mutation?

  2. Modern enzymes are the only thing we can test.

  3. No one knows if ancient enzymes were different. They are lost in the deep past, so claims with regard to their promiscuity or ability to evolve are hypothetical and unfalsifiable.

  4. Modern enzymes can't evolve new functions, based on our own experiments.

  5. We haven't tested the universe of modern enzymes, so our result is qualified, but the nine most similar enzymes did not change function.

  6. Our estimate for the likely waiting time for an enzyme to evolve a new function is at least 10^15 years.

  7. Therefore evolution of enzymes is likely to be impossible.

  8. Given the sophistication of enzymes and the way they work together, intelligent design is the best explanation for the origin and current diversity of modern enzymes.

You can read the argument in more detail in our paper.

Notice both arguments agree that modern enzymes can't evolve genuinely new functions. The difference is in the conclusion reached. The evolutionary argument assumes what it concludes - it's a snake swallowing its tail, and goes nowhere.

In contrast, our argument relies on the uniformitarian principle that underlies all science. What is true for modern enzymes was true for ancient ones as well.

From Wikipedia:

"Uniformitarianism is the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe. It has included the gradualistic concept that "the present is the key to the past" and is functioning at the same rates. Uniformitarianism has been a key principle of geology and virtually all fields of science."

Gradualism has since been discarded in geology and paleontology, and it is not part of our argument. But the part about processes having always operated in the same way does apply: the evolutionary mechanism has always functioned in the same way, with the same limits, and enzymes have always functioned in the same way, with specific, not promiscuous, catalytic activities.

Now here's the point: anyone who wants to make a special case for the origin of enzymes (or animal groups) has created a special category to protect the idea that evolution is true. That idea is apparently untouchable. Any hypothesis about the deep past is accepted if it allows an evolutionary explanation for current diversity, and avoids problems with difficult facts. As a consequence, papers on the origin of life, protein evolution, the origin of animal form, and human origins are full of speculation masked as supporting argument, or even as statements of fact. But the problem remains. If you start with the assumption that evolution is true, and view all evidence through those glasses, you won't even notice that your argument chases its tail.

San Jose, California: Nation's largest homeless encampment dismantled

NBC homeless clearing

© Unknown

Police and city crews on Thursday began dismantling the nation's largest homeless encampment, notoriously named "The Jungle," in a controversial move that aims to move hundreds of transients from the center of San Jose and find them affordable housing. Peggy Bunker reports.

Police and city crews on Thursday began dismantling the nation's largest homeless encampment, notoriously named "The Jungle," in a controversial move that aims to move hundreds of transients from the center of San Jose and find them affordable housing.

Streams of homeless people wheeled their lives out of the encampment on Story Road, their shopping carts full of their belongings. Some cried they didn't have time or the ability to move everything they own out in time.

Businesses owners surrounding the encampment said the streets filled up with the evacuated homeless looking for somewhere to settle.

"Before they moved them they should've had a place for all of them to go," said Bridgget Tapia, Tap's Keyes Club owner. "Because now we've just scattered them."

Earlier, before the sun had come up, officers had set up road blockades, hoping to create a clear path to move the estimated 200 homeless people left in the encampment without any fuss. Teams in white suits and orange hats moved in about 8 a.m. to clear all the trash from the site.

At least 130 people voluntarily left the sprawling makeshift community, a short drive from some of Silicon Valley's wealthiest tech giants. City homeless advocates said those people have already been helped with either permanent housing, subsidies or housing vouchers, though social workers have not been able to find homes for everyone.

San Jose's homelessness response team project manager Ray Bramson said that increased violence, wet weather and unsanitary conditions had made it imperative the camp that the camp be cleared.

In the last month, one resident tried to strangle someone with a cord of wire, he said. Another was nearly beaten to death with a hammer. And the State Water Resources Control Board has been demanding that polluted Coyote Creek, which cuts through the middle, get cleaned out.

He also has stressed that the closure of "The Jungle, " one of 247 homeless encampments within the city limits, coincides with the opening of the county's cold-weather homeless shelters.

"People who live in this encampment are in jeopardy every day and we need to do better," Bramson said Thursday morning.

The eviction had the backing of at least one man who had once been homeless.

"How is this controversial?" asked Michael Photopoulous, 45, of San Jose, who has lived on the streets and worked for homeless organizations and now lives in Section 8 housing, less than $200 a month for a one-bedroom apartment with his wife.

He has several friends who live in The Jungle, and he feels they should move out of what he described as a toxic wasteland, like he did.

Photopoulous, who worked as a janitor until his wife needed his fulltime care because she's on dialysis, said he believes the city is right in cleaning up the camp. But he knows that many homeless people will choose to live outdoors "so that they can do dope under a bridge" and "party like rock stars."

Not everyone is a drug user, he said, but he's not quite sure why the homeless people didn't choose to work with the band of social workers sent to help them over the last several months.

Added Carlos Balencia, who lives nearby: "I think it's a great idea. I mean, look at how dirty it is. Think about the poor people who live around here."

But the move angered many in the homeless community, who have made this garbage-strewn outdoor area their home.

Homeless advocate Robert Aguirre, who lost his own job in the tech sector and who still "hasn't recovered," told NBC Bay Area early Thursday that the city's eviction of "The Jungle" likely won't work.

"It's a game of 'Whack-a-Mole,''' he said.

Aguirre said some homeless people either won't find traditional housing, or don't want to find traditional housing, and will look to set up their lives in another non-sanctioned spot.

"And if the police find it," he said, "they'll come and run you out of there. They're scattering people around the city. They'll just cause them to go further and further away from traditional housing. And they'll end up in people's neighborhoods."
San Jose Jungle eviction


Homeless evicted from "The Jungle"

He also said that homeless people already have an "economy" in "The Jungle," and when they're forced to move, they'll have to work on creating another one. The same problems and issues will still exist - just somewhere else.

"I don't see this as (making this) a safer city," Aguirre said. "They're going to be angry. They have homes now. Now, you're really going to make them homeless."

Sandy Perry, of the Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County, said there just isn't enough housing to place everyone. More than 7,600 homeless residents of Santa Clara County were counted in a census last year.

San Jose Jungle dog

© Lucero Benitez

Homeless people, including their pets, were evicted from the largest U.S. homeless encampment called The Jungle in San Jose. Dec. 4, 2014

"They're making a lot of publicity about the 144 they've housed," Perry said. "I think that's excellent. I'll give them credit for that. But since then, 200 to 300 people became homeless. So they're going backwards."

But the city is committed to finding residents of "The Jungle" - about 68 acres near Coyote Creek in the center of San Jose - suitable housing in a pilot project.

Closing the encampment has been a hot political issue in the city as well. Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, who lost his bid for mayor last month, wanted to find $10 million in county funds to pay for affordable housing. But Mayor-Elect Sam Liccardo said that housing developers should pay for it, as they do in other cities.

In the past 18 months, the city of San Jose has spent more than $4 million trying to solve the problems at the encampment. The last camp clean-out was in May 2012 when about 150 people were moved out of The Jungle. Many returned and others, swept from other encampments in San Jose, joined them.

The encampment is in stark contrast to its surrounding area in the heart of the Silicon Valley, a region leading the country for job growth, income, innovation and venture capital.

Tech giants Google, Apple, Yahoo, eBay, Facebook, Intel and many more call the 1,850-square-mile stretch of business parks, small cities and suburbs south of San Francisco home. But as tech roars back from the recession, housing costs have soared, and more than 5,000 now people sleep outside in streets, parks and under freeways there.

Aguirre is well aware of this dichotomy.

"This is the wealthiest county in the U.S.," he said. "And this is the largest homeless encampment in the U.S... This is a tale of two cities."

Poll: 65% Israelis don't want Netanyahu as prime minister

Bibi Netanyahu

© Alex Kolomoisky/POOL/FLASH90

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on Sunday, November 30, 2014.

Almost two-thirds of Israelis do not want Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the next government, a poll published Saturday by Channel 2 found.

The poll was released as the leaders of Israel's center and center-left parties talk of building various alliances to prevent Netanyahu retaining his post after the next elections. The Knesset on Monday is set to pass the second and third readings of a bill to dissolve itself and hold elections on March 17, 2015.

Channel 2 has reported several times this weekend that the elections could still be averted if Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman supports a move to build an alternative coalition in the current parliament, headed by Netanyahu, including the two ultra-Orthodox parties. It said Saturday night that Liberman might be offered the post of defense minister as an incentive. But Liberman's office has denied any prospect of such an arrangement.

Asked whether they want the three-term prime minister to take office again after the March elections, 65 percent of the 500 Israelis polled said they do not want Netanyahu to continue running the country while 30% said they do want him to be prime minister; 5% declined responding to the question.

In answer to a separate question in the Channel 2 poll, conducted by Midgam, 36% said that Netanyahu was the best suited candidate for the post of prime minister. The TV report didn't give figures concerning other candidates.

When asked what party they would vote for if elections were held today, 39% said they would vote the same as in the January 2013 elections, 27% said they would change their vote, 17% were still deliberating, and 6% would not vote. Another 11% said they did not know.

Keeping with Israel's generally high voter turnout rates, 71% of respondents said they would definitely go vote in the upcoming elections, 24% said they were thinking of hitting the polls on election day - which is scheduled for March 17 - 3% do not think they will vote and 1% said they do not intend to cast a ballot. Another 1% said they did not know.

In the 2013 elections, 67.79% of eligible voters went to the polls, the highest figure since the 1999 election. Some pundits, such as Al Monitor's Mazal Muallem, predict a lower turnout in 2015, citing "growing despair regarding Israel's political leadership."

The results of the survey came out amid feverish talk of an anti-Netanyahu alliance being formed by Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog, Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni and possibly Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid.

Tzipi Livni-Isaac Herzog

© Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Hatnua head Tzipi Livni and leader of the opposition Isaac Herzog at the Knesset on November 12, 2014.

In comments Saturday, Yesh Atid's former science minister Yaakov Peri did not rule out such an alliance even if Lapid, his party leader, was not at its helm. What was important, Peri said, was "to switch the leadership."

Herzog told Channel 2 in an interview broadcast Saturday night that he has the chance of a lifetime to oust Netanyahu in the upcoming elections and form a center-left government. He said it was "objectively logical" that he should lead a center-left bloc.

On Friday, Channel 10 reported that Livni and Herzog have discussed the possibility of running together over the past few days. According to the report, Livni would get the number two spot on the list and two more seats for party members Amram Mitzna and Amir Peretz among the top 10.

Livni said Saturday she'd be "happy" to join a bloc that would replace a Netanyahu-led government. She told Channel 2 it was vital to bring down Netanyahu and that the alliance of Netanyahu and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett was "destructive for Israel." She also said she considered herself "ready to be prime minister," and that it was important that "someone with my positions" be prime minister.

A Globes poll gave a Labor-Hatnua alliance 24 seats, Channel 10 said.

Lapid is also reported to be trying to woo Livni into an alliance headed by Yesh Atid, Channel 2 reported Saturday night. Lapid declared on Wednesday that he was competing to be prime minister, and said Yesh Atid would win the elections.

Meanwhile Netanyahu was reported Saturday night to be seeking to move up the Likud leadership primaries, set for Jauary 6, to late December, in part to make it logistically harder for his former interior minister, Gideon Sa'ar, to make a rumored return and challenge him.

On Wednesday, the Knesset approved the first reading of a bill to dissolve itself, and party leaders set new elections for March 17. The parliament is expected to ratify the motion this coming week, sending Israel to the polls for the second time in two years.

Russia doesn't want Ukraine to be split up: NATO intelligence officials


© nato.int

Russia doesn't want Ukraine to be split up, NATO intelligence officials say, warning their colleagues against wrongly assessing Moscow's policy on the crisis in eastern Ukraine.

That's according to a report in German magazine written by intelligence officers from several NATO countries. They argue that Moscow is not interested in escalating the situation in Ukraine, and is not going to repeat the scenario of what happened in Crimea.

The officers believe that the Kremlin is merely interested in seeing the reorganization of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics into functioning administrative units within a federalized Ukraine, if those regions can reach an agreement with Kiev.

US serviceman

© Reuters / Roman Baluk

A US serviceman (front), accompanied by Ukrainian soldiers, takes part in military exercises outside the town of Yavoriv near Lviv, September 19, 2014

NATO has severed practically all cooperation with Russia in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, as it is accusing Moscow of sending troops and military equipment to self-defense forces in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics. Though NATO did not provide any substantial proof of such accusations, it launched a massive military build-up of troops in the Baltic States and other Eastern European NATO member countries.

The alliance claims this is needed to build confidence in the respective governments of NATO's protection from an attack by Russia.

NATO's new chief, Jens Stoltenberg, says that the alliance's members, particularly the Baltic States, have complained of an increasing number of Russian military exercises close to their borders. He acknowledged that Russia conducts those exercises in international airspace and waters and is not violating international treaties, however.

[embedded content]

"We have already boosted our presence in the eastern part of our alliance. We have five times more planes in the air. Our forces start an exercise every two days. And we have also increased the number of ships in the Baltic and the Black Seas," Stoltenberg told the media earlier in December.

Moscow sees NATO expansion towards its borders as aggressive and a violation of post-Cold War agreements. It wants the alliance to guarantee that Ukraine and Georgia would not become part of the NATO military bloc, but Stoltenberg said they cannot and will not give such guarantees.

The Kremlin also believes that NATO is using the Ukrainian civil war and the secession of Crimea as a pretext to justify larger military spending by members of the alliance.

Censorship of police killings inspires crowd-sourced database

police killings

began to compile a list of all police-involved shootings in the U.S. He's not the only one to undertake such a project: D. Brian Burghart, editor of the Reno News & Reviewcrowdsourced national database of deadly police violence. We asked Brian to write about what he's learned from his project.

It began simply enough. Commuting home from my work at Reno's alt-weekly newspaper, the , on May 18, 2012, I drove past the aftermath of a police shooting - in this case, that of a man named Jace Herndon. It was a chaotic scene, and I couldn't help but wonder how often it happened.

I went home and grabbed my laptop and a glass of wine and tried to find out. I found nothing - a failure I simply chalked up to incompetent local media.

A few months later I read about the Dec. 6, 2012, killing of a naked and unarmed 18-year-old college student, Gil Collar, by University of South Alabama police. The killing had attracted national coverage - , the Associated Press, CNN - but there was still no context being provided - no figures examining how many people are killed by police.

I started to search in earnest. Nowhere could I find out how many people died during interactions with police in the United States. Try as I might, I just couldn't wrap my head around that idea. How was it that, in the 21st century, this data wasn't being tracked, compiled, and made available to the public? How could journalists know if police were killing too many people in their town if they didn't have a way to compare to other cities? Hell, how could citizens or police? How could cops possibly know "best practices" for dealing with any fluid situation? They couldn't.

The bottom line was that I found the absence of such a library of police killings offensive. And so I decided to build it. I'm still building it. But I could use some help. You can find my growing database of deadly police violence here, at Fatal Encounters, and I invite you to go here, research one of the listed shootings, fill out the row, and change its background color. It'll take you about 25 minutes. There are thousands to choose from, and another 2,000 or so on my cloud drive that I haven't even added yet. After I fact-check and fill in the cracks, your contribution will be added to largest database about police violence in the country. Feel free to check out what has been collected about your locale's information here.

The biggest thing I've taken away from this project is something I'll never be able to prove, but I'm convinced to my core: The lack of such a database is intentional. No government - not the federal government, and not the thousands of municipalities that give their police forces license to use deadly force - wants you to know how many people it kills and why.

It's the only conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence. What evidence? In attempting to collect this information, I was lied to and delayed by the FBI, even when I was only trying to find out the addresses of police departments to make public records requests. The government collects millions of bits of data annually about law enforcement in its Uniform Crime Report, but it doesn't collect information about the most consequential act a law enforcer can do.

I've been lied to and delayed by state, county and local law enforcement agencies - almost every time. They've blatantly broken public records laws, and then thumbed their authoritarian noses at the temerity of a citizen asking for information that might embarrass the agency. And these are the people in charge of enforcing the law.

The second biggest thing I learned is that bad journalism colludes with police to hide this information. The primary reason for this is that police will cut off information to reporters who tell tales. And a reporter can't work if he or she can't talk to sources. It happened to me on almost every level as I advanced this year-long Fatal Encounters series through the . First they talk; then they stop, then they roadblock.

Take Philadelphia for example. In Philadelphia, the police generally don't disclose the names of victims of police violence, and they don't disclose the names of police officers who kill people. What reporter has time to go to the most dangerous sections of town to try to find someone who knows the name of the victim or the details of a killing? At night, on deadline, are you kidding? So with no victim and no officer, there's no real story, but the information is known, consumed and mulled over in an ever-darkening cloud of neighborhood anger.

Many Gawker readers watched in horror as Albuquerque police killed James Boyd, a homeless man, for illegal camping. Look at these stats, though (I don't know if they're comprehensive; I believe they are): In Bernallilo County, N.M., three people were killed by police in 2012; in 2013, five. In Shelby County, Tenn., nine people were killed by police in 2012; in 2013, 11.

Who the hell knew Memphis Police were killing men at more than double the rate the cops were killing people in Albuquerque? But when I emailed the reporter at the Memphis to track the numbers back further, I got no response. I bought a subscription, but haven't been able return to research in that region. (Why don't you help me out? Just do a last name search here before you dig in.)

There are many other ways that bad or sloppy journalism undermines the ability of researchers to gather data on police shootings. Reporters make fundamental errors or typos; they accept police excuses for not releasing names of the dead or the shooters, or don't publish the decedents' names even if they're released; they don't publish police or coroner's reports. Sometimes they don't show their work: This otherwise excellent article claims there were 15 fatal shooting cases involving law enforcement agencies between January 2007 to September 30, 2011 - but provides few names and dates for further research efforts.

And that list doesn't even get into fundamental errors in attitude toward police killing - for example, the tendency of large outlets and wire services to treat killings as local matters, and not worth tracking widely. Even though police brutality is a national crisis. Journalists also don't generally report the race of the person killed. Why? It's unethical to report it unless it's germane to the story. But race is always germane when police kill somebody.

This is the most most heinous thing I've learned in my two years compiling Fatal Encounters. You know who dies in the most population-dense areas? Black men. You know who dies in the least population dense areas? Mentally ill men. It's not to say there aren't dangerous and desperate criminals killed across the line. But African-Americans and the mentally ill people make up a huge percentage of people killed by police.

And if you want to get down to nut-cuttin' time, across the board, it's poor people who are killed by police. (And by the way, around 96 percent of people killed by police are men.)

But maybe most important thing I learned is that collecting this information is hard. I still firmly believe that having a large, searchable database will allow us not just better understanding of these incidents, but better training, policies and protocols for police, and consequently fewer dead people and police. But normal people don't much care about numbers. Trolls intentionally try to pollute the data. Subterranean disinformationists routinely get out fake numbers. I try to take advantage of the public passion when when an incendiary event happens, like the death of Kelly Thomas, James Boyd, Eric Garner or Michael Brown. Or when a Deadspin writer decides to get involved. My girlfriend calls this "riding the spike." I call it journalism. Or maybe, obsession.

can be found here, and is on Twitter at @FatalEncounters. Deadspin's submission form can be found here.

Punishing kids for lying just doesn't work

If you want your child to tell the truth, it's best not to threaten to punish them if they lie. That's what researchers discovered through a simple experiment involving 372 children between the ages of 4 and 8.

How the experiment was done

The researchers, led by Prof. Victoria Talwar of McGill's Dept. of Educational and Counselling Psychology, left each child alone in a room for 1 minute with a toy behind them on a table, having told the child not to peek during their absence.

While they were out of the room, a hidden video camera filmed what went on.

When the researchers returned, they asked the child, a simple question: "When I was gone, did you turn around and peak at the toy?"

What the researchers discovered was that:

  1. Slightly more than 2/3 of the children peeked at the toy (67.5 % or 251 children out of the 372 who were involved in the experiment). For every 1-month increase in age, children became slightly less likely to peek.

  2. When the children were asked whether or not they had peeked, again about 2/3 of them lied (167 children or 66.5%) - and month-by-month as children aged, they both become more likely to tell lies and more adept at maintaining their lies

But what was more interesting to the researchers was that:

  1. Children were less likely to tell the truth if they were afraid of being punished than if they were asked to tell the truth either because it would please the adult, or because it was the right thing to do and would make the child feel good.

  2. The researchers expected and found that while younger children were more focused on telling the truth to please the adults, the older children had better internalized standards of behaviour which made them tell the truth because it was the right thing to do.

"The bottom line is that punishment does not promote truth-telling," says Victoria Talwar, the lead researcher on the study. "In fact, the threat of punishment can have the reverse effect by reducing the likelihood that children will tell the truth when encouraged to do so. This is useful information for all parents of young children and for the professionals like teachers who work with them and want to encourage young children to be honest."

To read the full article in the

Another banker found dead under questionable circumstances

Geert Tack Haaltert

52-year-old Belgian Geert Tack - a private banker for ING who managed portfolios for wealthy individuals - was described as 'impeccable', 'sporty', 'cared-for', and 'successful' and so as Vermist reports, after disappearing a month ago, the appearance of his body off the coast of Ostend is surrpunded by riddles...

Tack disappeared on November 5th...

Impeccable. Sporty. Cared for. Successful. Just some qualifications that are attributed to the 52-year-old from the Belgian Geert Tack Haaltert.

Geert Tack worked as a private banker for ING and managed portfolios of wealthy clients. The Belgian was much respected in the financial world and was known as an up and top professional. His sudden disappearance had the effect of a bombshell. "If Tack himself was having trouble he has managed to keep it well hidden", colleagues say.

Nobody then could have guessed that the man would not return on Wednesday, November 5th to his wife in their villa Vondelen.

And would be found dead this weekend off the coast of Ostend...

On December 3, the body was found on the coast of Ostend and removed from the water. The prosecutor confirmed today that it is Geert Tack, but it is still awaiting further results of the autopsy for the exact cause of death. The results of toxicological testing are not yet known.The examiner states that the body showed no outward signs of violence.

Geert Tack rental car found abandoned

As Vermist comments, he was well-liked and successful but the situation of his disappearance remain odd to say the least...

What makes the case very mysterious are the rather peculiar circumstances under which he disappeared. A few weeks earlier Tack drove his car to the garage and then took a replacement car. Oddly enough, he used it much later, shortly before he disappeared. Meanwhile, the car, a Renault Espace, has been found in Knokke, but Tack's whereabouts are still unknown to this day. Also - why did he find it sometimes so difficult to get to sleep in the weeks before his disappearance? Why did he leave his laptop and cell phone at home that Wednesday morning ?Although a desperate act can not be excluded, there are also people considering the missing part of a preconceived plan. From his position Tack had the opportunity - whether or not forced by third parties - to run off with money from his clients. It is a hypothesis that is being seriously investigated by the federal police, but which colleagues refuse to consider. "He would never do something like that" said one of them with certainty. "Geert is a blameless man.

This is the 36th Dead Banker of the year :

1) David Bird, 55, long-time reporter for the Wall Street Journal working at the Dow Jones news room

2) Tim Dickenson, a U.K.-based communications director at Swiss Re AG

3) William Broeksmit, 58, former senior manager for Deutsche Bank

4) Ryan Henry Crane, age 37, JP Morgan

5) Li Junjie, 33, Hong Kong JP Morgan

6) Gabriel Magee, 39, age JP Morgan employee

7) Mike Dueker, 50, who had worked for Russell Investments

8) Richard Talley, 57, was the founder and CEO of American Title (real estate titles)

9) James Stuart Jr. 70, Former National Bank of Commerce CEO was found dead in Scottsdale, Ariz

10) Jason Alan Salais, 34 year old IT Specialist at JPMorgan since 2008

11) Autumn Radtke, 28, CEO of First Meta, a Singapore-based virtual currency trading platform

12) Eddie Reilly, 47, investment banker, Vertical Group, New York

13) Kenneth Ballando, 28, investment banker, Levy Capital, New york

14) Joseph A. Giampapa, 55, corporate bankruptcy lawyer, JP Morgan Chase

15) Jan Peter Schmittmann, 57, voormalig topbestuurder ANB/AMRO, Laren, Nederland

16) Juergen Frick, 48, CEO Bank Frick & Co AG, Liechtenstein

17) Benoît Philippens, 37, directeur BNP Parisbas Fortis Bank, Ans, België.

18) Lydia..., 52, bankier Bred-Banque-Populaire, Parijs

19) Andrew Jarzyk, 27, bankier, PNC Bank, New York

20) Carlos Six, 61, Hoofd Belastingdienst en lid CREDAF, België

21) Jan Winkelhuijzen, 75, Commissaris en Fiscalist (voormalig Deloitte), Nederland.

22) Richard Rockefeller, 66, achterkleinzoon elitebankier John D. Rockefeller, Amerika

23) Mahafarid Amir Khosravi (Amir Mansour Aria), 45, bankeigenaar, zakenman en derivatenhandelaar, Iran

24) Lewis Katz, 76, zakenman, advocaat en insider in de bancaire wereld, Amerika

25) Julian Knott, Directeur Global Operations Center JP Morgan, 45, Amerika

26) Richard Gravino, IT Specialist JP Morgan, 49, Amerika

27) Thomas James Schenkman, Managing Director Global Infrastructure JP Morgan, 42, Amerika

28) Nicholas Valtz, 39, Managing Director Goldman Sachs, New York, Amerika

29) Therese Brouwer, 50, Managing Director ING, Nederland

30) Tod Robert Edward, 51, Vice President M & T Bank, Amerika

31) Thierry Leyne, 48, investeringsbankier en eigenaar Anatevka S.A., Israël

32) Calogero Gambino, 41, Managing Director Deutsche Bank, Amerika

33) Shawn D. Miller, 42, Managing Director Citigroup, New York, Amerika

34) Melissa Millian, 54, Senior Vice President Mass Mutual, Amerika

35) Thieu Leenen, 64, Relatiemanager ABN/AMRO, Eindhoven, Nederland

36) Geert Tack, 52, Private Banker ING, Haaltert, België

The Cop Who Killed Eric Garner Was Previously Sued For Civil Rights Violations

The cop who killed a man while trying to subdue him for arrest (pictured above) has been sued several times for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of black men, USA Today reports.

Daniel Pantaleo, a 29-year-old officer for the New York Police Department, put 43-year-old Eric Garner, a black man, in a chokehold on Staten Island when Garner tried to resist arrest. Garner, who was unarmed, told police he wasn’t doing anything wrong and wouldn’t let them touch him.

The NYPD faced accusations of racism and racial profiling after the release of a bystander tape that showed several cops crowding around a nonviolent Garner and Pantaleo hooking his arm around Garner’s neck and dragging him to the ground.

Yet another reason to detest police brutality: Taxpayers bear the burden of damages rewarded

A UCLA Law Professor has found that in cases of police brutality, damages rewarded in suits against the city of New York are almost entirely paid for by taxpayers, with just a fraction of the cost incurred by officers involved or the NYPD as a whole.

Joanna Schwartz, who has extensive experience studying and analyzing cases of misconduct amongst police nationwide, presented her findings in a paper she wrote recently for the New York University Law Review. In the paper, Schwartz determines that taxpayers "almost always satisfy both compensatory and punitive damages awards entered against their sworn servants."

In the case of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who was killed after NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in a chokehold in an attempt to arrest him, the grand jury decision not to indict Pantaleo for Garner's death has prompted the victim's family to sue the city of New York for $75 million. Schwartz believes that Pantaleo may have to pay a very small portion of the damages, but it will ultimately be NYC taxpayers who foot the bill.

"I do imagine the officers will be indemnified," Schwartz said. "If you look at big cases involving the NYPD that settled between 2006 and 2011, including suits relating to the shooting of Sean Bell, there was no contribution by involved officers. New York has required officers to contribute small amounts when officers have been found to be acting outside of policy.

I suppose this could happen in this case, but feel fairly certain given my research about indemnification that the involved officers would, at most, be required to contribute a minuscule fraction of any amount collected by the family."

According to CityLab.com, research conducted by Schwartz from civil rights cases settled between 2006 and 2011 shows that of the 9,225 cases and $735 million total in damages awarded in large cities, "officers personally paid less than $171,300 of that total - or just .02 percent." Data from cases in small and mid-sized cities shows that of the $9.4 million in total damages rewarded during the time period, none of it was actually paid for by the NYPD or its officers.

A single instance in which a New York officer paid the full amount in a settlement involved a then-off-duty officer whose dog attacked someone. That officer paid $16,500.

Schwartz concludes her study by arguing that the system leans in favor of the plaintiff in cases of police misconduct.

"For several decades, the Supreme Court has crafted civil rights doctrines - including qualified immunity and limitations on municipal liability and punitive damages - based on unfounded assumptions, and many times has done so in ways that make it more difficult for plaintiffs to prevail. This Article rebuts one of those assumptions: that law enforcement officers are personally responsible for settlements and judgments entered against them."

SOTT Exclusive: U.S. Congress anti-Russia law pulls the Empire of Chaos deeper into the black hole of its own making

black hole M60-UCD1

© shabalgnob.blogspot.com

Gigantic black hole spotted by Hubble

The U.S. Empire's plan was to use the chaos it generated in Ukraine to draw Russia into an overt military intervention, and to ultimately isolate, divide and pacify Russia. This is according to political analyst Andrew Korbyko, who labels this bizarre strategy the 'Reverse Brzezinski':

The idea is to create 'black holes' of absolute disorder in which Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran are "damned if they do, damned if they don't" intervene. [...]

When it comes to Ukraine, humanitarian atrocities and war crimes are purposely being undertaken in order to anger the Russian leadership and provoke an emotional military reaction. [...]

The US sought to capitalize off of the chaos present in Syria and Ukraine in order to create 'black holes' to suck in Iran and Russia.

Whatever outcomes the Washington elites they would get, it's becoming increasingly obvious that this strategy has failed miserably. Putin recently stated that Russia won't fall for such tactics:

"We are not threatening anyone and are not planning to get involved in any geopolitical games, intrigues and especially conflicts, no matter who would want to pull us into them," Putin said at a meeting with military chiefs in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday.

It seems that these 'black holes' are now sucking in their own creators and bringing about their downfall, producing the opposite result to what the 'Empire of Chaos' wanted. The same outcome can be expected from any future attempts by the West to undermine Russia. This is made clear with the recent decision by Russia to scrap the South Stream pipeline and open up of a new Blue Stream pipeline.

As one Russian commentator put it, "Putin is now forcing the EU to recognize the mess in Ukraine is not Russian, but a European problem." We can also see clearly that Putin is not the one trying to 'revive the Russian Empire' - quite the opposite, it's the U.S. and their allies vassals that are behaving more overtly as an empire. The psychopaths running the Western Empire always need an enemy to justify their plans, but they prefer to use enemies they control for that purpose (ISIS, for example). Their portrait of Putin-as-Hitler is indicative of the threat this enemy poses. Lada Rey writes in 'Is Putin part of New World Order?':

Since US cannot be seen as a positive force any more, the only thing that is left for its propaganda is to discredit the opponent. To do that, the US needs to twist the reality in such a way that the opponent is painted with the tainted brush.

So what's next for the Empire of Chaos? Enter House Resolution 758. Here's Pepe Escobar's take on the resolution.

I can't emphasize enough how terrifying - and stupid - this is.

And now it's official.

House Resolution 758 was approved yesterday by an overwhelming, bipartisan 411-10 score at the US Congress.

See the vote breakdown here:


This resolution, rushed to a vote only two weeks after it was introduced, depicts Russia as an "Aggressor Nation" which has invaded Ukraine and was behind the downing of MH-17.

The resolution virtually calls for war on Russia.

Take a very good look at the language:

The President of the United States, in consultation with the US Congress, must...

"conduct a review of the force posture, readiness, and responsibilities of the United States Armed Forces and the forces of other members of NATO to determine if the contributions and actions of each is sufficient to meet the obligations of collective self defense under article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and to specify the measures needed to remedy any deficiencies" .

Translation: the US Congress wants the Empire of Chaos to use NATO's collective security doctrine under article 5 (an attack on one member is an attack on all members) to advance a war on Russia, even though Ukraine is not a member (but will soon become a major non-NATO ally).

The resolution now goes to the Senate.

If it becomes law, the resolution allows the President of the United States to declare war on Russia bypassing the formal permission of Capitol Hill.

The lame duck wouldn't have the balls. But the Hillarator will.

Ron Paul rightly states the bill is nothing but "16 pages of war propaganda that should have made even neocons blush." He further states that the U.S. is provoking a war against Russia that "could result in total destruction" of both countries.

With the failure of their covert strategies, are the Western elite now opting for more overt undertakings? Perhaps so, but we should keep recent statements by Dmitry Orlov in mind.

Dmitry Orlov: Well, to keep their positions, they have to continue posturing and part of that posturing is pretending that you're acting from a position of strength whereas you're actually acting from a position of weakness. That's already happening in the US and the posturing isn't working out very well either. So, in China recently, Obama made a speech about American leadership in the world and all of these young Chinese people in the audience started laughing. Now, if you send your leader somewhere across the world, and young people laugh at him, that's not a good sign, right?


I don't think there'll be any outright all out confrontation because total war between the United States and Russia is unwinnable by definition. I think that basically, there will be efforts by the US to continue what it tries to do with less and less success, various types of Orange Revolutions. And they're working out worse and worse every time. I mean look at the results. It used to be that they actually kind of got the government they wanted for a little while. But now, they don't even get that for any length of time and the countries that they try to set up, like Libya for instance, fall apart really quickly. If you look at Georgia, where they put in Mikheil Saakashvili as the President, well, now he's basically a wanted men in his own country. He's been hiding out somewhere in the states. It's just not working out very well but they'll continue doing it until it just all falls apart.

Russia is forced by the circumstances (full-spectrum anti-Russian information war, economic sanctions, 'balkanization' on its doorstep) to respond in creative ways that protect its own interests, draws allies to its principled stance, and minimizes the loss of life and property for everyone involved... while the U.S. Empire is getting swallowed into a black hole of its own making.


Ante Sarlija (Profile)

Born and raised in Croatia, Ante joined the SOTT editorial team in 2014. He is also a part of the Croatian SOTT translation team. His area of interest includes, among other things, Philosophy and Politics. In his spare time he enjoys reading, researching, listening to music and smoking.

CIA bracing for 'most damaging moment' - Release of report detailing its 'embrace of torture'

© Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Secretary of state John Kerry asked Dianne Feinstein on Friday to consider the timing of the expected release of a report on CIA interrogation techniques.

The CIA is bracing for what could be one of the most damaging moments in its history: a public airing of its post-9/11 embrace of torture.

The Senate intelligence committee is poised to release a landmark inquiry into torture as early as Tuesday, even as the Obama administration has made a last-ditch effort to suppress a report that has plunged relations between the CIA and its Senate overseer to a historic low point.

The release of the torture report will represent the third major airing of faulty CIA intelligence in 15 years, following official commissions into the 9/11 plot and Saddam Hussein's defunct illicit weapons programs.

Despite months of negotiation over how much of the 6,000-page report will be declassified, most of its findings will never see the light of the day. But even a partial release of the report will yield a furious response from the CIA and its allies.

On Sunday, George W Bush made a show of support for CIA operatives who had participated in torture, calling them "patriots".

"We're fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the CIA serving on our behalf," he told CNN. "These are patriots and whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it is way off base."

The Senate report is likely to attract global attention, owing to the CIA's network of unacknowledged prisons in places like Poland, Thailand and Afghanistan.

Human-rights investigators have found 54 countries cooperated in various ways with the CIA's renditions, detentions and interrogations, but the commitee is unlikely to reveal the agency's foreign torture partners.

On Friday, secretary of state John Kerry called Senator Dianne Feinstein - the California Democrat who spearheaded the inquiry - to urge consideration of what spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the "foreign policy implications" of the report's timing, suggesting it could inflame anti-American outrage worldwide.

Bloomberg first reported that the committee understood Kerry to be arguing for suppressing the report, though the State Department denies it.

Congressman Mike Rogers, the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee said on Sunday that US allies have warned that the release of the report could provoke "violence and deaths".

"I think this is a terrible idea," Rogers told CNN. "Foreign leaders have approached the government and said, 'You do this, this will cause violence and deaths.' Our own intelligence community has assessed that this will cause violence and deaths."

Several foreign governments, including the UK and Poland, are fearful of identification by the Senate and have added to the pressure on the committee.

Some of the CIA's major allies included dictators whom Barack Obama relinquished US support for or even went to war to depose, such as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, and Syria's Bashar al-Assad.

Jose Rodriguez, a former senior CIA official who has ardently defended torture, has already published an op-ed accusing Feinstein and her committee allies ofbreaking faith with a CIA it once wanted to do its utmost to stop terrorism. Several former CIA directors and Bush officials intend to argue that the Senate investigation is itself misleading.

Rodriguez, writing in the Washington Post, said that the committee's conclusion that torture "brought no intelligence value is an egregious falsehood" and termed the report "a dishonest attempt to rewrite history".

The report's fundamental conclusions have been well-trailed. Senate investigators determined that the CIA's embrace of mock-drowning, sleep deprivation, "stress positions", sensory and dietary manipulation and other torture techniques were ineffective, and the CIA covered up that ineffectiveness by misrepresenting its results to Bush officials, Congress and the public.

Its executive summary examines 20 such instances during the 2002-2006 height of what the CIA prefers to call "enhanced interrogation techniques".

After the committee voted in April to declassify sections of the report, Feinstein called the CIA's actions a "stain on our history".

Feinstein hoped the committee would finish its declassification negotiations with the administration within 30 days. Yet the White House placed the CIA in charge of censoring a report into its own conduct and discussions have stretched into their 10th month. In August, Feinstein and other leading Senate Democratsrejected proposed administration redactions, saying they would leave the committee's findings incomprehensible. The agency has rejected even the use of pseudonyms for its operatives on the grounds they could reveal classified identities.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Feinstein conceded that she had been obliged to give in on some of her demands for transparency: "We have to get this report out."

"We will find another way to make known some of the problems," she said.

The drawn-out process has prompted speculation that the administration wants to outlast Feinstein's tenure as chairwoman and prefers for committee Republicans, who consider the inquiry a wasteful witch hunt, to preside over its partial release come January. Two committee Democrats, Ron Wyden of Oregonand Mark Udall of Colorado, have publicly flirted with using parliamentary procedure to force disclosure, considered to be an attempt at exerting pressure on the administration.

Human rights campaigners have pressured the White House for months to release a maximally declassified report so as to hold the CIA accountable. It is unlikely to lead to any legal consequence for CIA officials, particularly after a special Justice Department inquiry into torture declined to indict anyone for abuses in the CIA program. The report's greatest legal impact may be on the military tribunal for the accused 9/11 co-conspirators, whose lawyers wish to introduce the report into evidence that their clients were tortured into delivering inadmissible statements implicating themselves.

Hostility to the report is not restricted to the right wing. Human rights groups have criticized Senate investigators for not looking into the Bush administration architects of the program in a concession to committee Republicans, and for declining to attempt a definitive legal analysis of torture. While the CIA has criticized the inquiry for not interviewing its operatives, lawyers for CIA torture victims have said Senate investigators did not seek to interview their clients, either.

Beyond questions of accountability, a lingering effect of the report is likely to be damage between the CIA and the secret Senate committee that oversees the powerful intelligence agency.

Director John Brennan had to apologize in July after the CIA inspector general determined that agency officials surreptitiously accessed committee work product and email on a firewalled shared network. Brennan had initially denied wrongdoing that Feinstein stated had provoked a constitutional crisis. Udall and others have called on Brennan - himself a senior CIA official during the time of the inquiry's focus - to resign.