A non-profit news blog, focused on providing independent journalism.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Authoritarian U.S. State allows impunity for torturers and police shootings

The international fallout from last week's long-delayed release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's 500-page executive summary of its still-classified 6,000 report on CIA torture could hardly be more intense, with calls coming from the United Nations, foreign governments and the human rights community for prosecutions of those who carried out or authorized the torture techniques described in the report, including senior officials from the Bush administration.

But judging from the self-assured comments of CIA and former administration officials, there is no real concern over the possibility of any criminal liability, a lack of accountability which has led to a palpable arrogance among those who would be behind bars if laws were actually enforced on an equal basis in the United States.

The above-the-law sense of entitlement was perhaps most clearly on display in former Vice President Dick Cheney's appearance this Sunday on "," stating that when it comes to using torture, "I'd do it again in a minute."

When presented with gruesome details from the Senate report on torture - for example the newly revealed "enhanced interrogation technique" of "rectal feeding," i.e., anal rape - and asked for his definition of what might constitute "torture" in a legal sense, Cheney retorted that torture is "an American citizen on his cellphone making a last call to his four young daughters shortly before he burns to death in the upper levels of the Trade Center in New York on 9/11."

Short of this rather high bar, nothing, by definition, that the United States does to its detainees could conceivably be considered torture.

Similarly, when asked about the large number of innocent people (26 out of 119 CIA detainees, according to the report) who had tragically been detained and tortured in error, for example Gul Rahman - a victim of mistaken identity who was chained to the wall of his cell, doused with water and froze to death in CIA custody - Cheney stated indifferently that these individuals essentially don't matter in the grand scheme of things. The only problem that Cheney had was "with the folks that we did release that end up back on the battlefield."

"I'm more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent," he said. Taken to its logical conclusion, Cheney's reasoning would seem to hold that it is preferable to indefinitely detain and torture a million innocent people than to allow one "bad guy" to slip through the cracks. The implications of this logic are, needless to say, chilling (not to mention completely at odds with the legal principle of presumed innocence).

A Courtroom Defense

At times, watching Cheney make these cold rationalizations on "," it may have occurred to viewers that the more appropriate venue for this interview would have been on the witness stand of a courtroom. After all, what Cheney was defending was not just controversial policy choices, but clearly defined crimes of torture and murder.

Although he was sure to emphasize that "All of the techniques that were authorized by the President were, in effect, blessed by the Justice Department," the fact remains that providing the cover of law to a crime makes it no less of a crime.

This is a point that UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism Ben Emmerson specifically made last week following the release of the report. In a statement, Emmerson said, "The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the U.S. government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability."

Emphasizing that all individuals responsible for "the criminal conspiracy" described in the Senate report "must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes," Emmerson noted that "international law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture."

Judging from Cheney's arrogant display on "," however, there appears to be very little appreciation for the niceties of international law such as its expressed prohibition on official immunity when it comes to the crime of torture. He seems to be quite confident, indeed, that official immunity is unnecessary when there is an implied unofficial immunity that is granted to public officials in the United States, this being the case whether it pertains to CIA torture or police brutality.

Police Shootings

The same arrogance that Cheney is so casually displaying can also be seen in the closely paralleled story of the recent spate of police shootings and killings of innocent or unarmed African-Americans, and the remarkable wave of demonstrations that has taken hold across the United States in response.

With large-scale protests happening in most major American cities over the past month - particularly since grand juries decided not to indict the police officers who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City - one might think that cops would be extra careful these days not to come across overly arrogant or obdurate. This, however, would not be the case.

In response to the NFL's Cleveland Browns' wide receiver Andrew Hawkins taking the field on Sunday wearing a T-shirt protesting recent police shootings in Ohio - reading "Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford" on the front and "The Real Battle for Ohio" on the back - Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland police union, claimed the shirt was disrespectful and he disparaged the very idea of athletes holding opinions about anything other than sports.

"It's pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law," Follmer said in a statement. "They should stick to what they know best on the field." In other words, keep your opinions to yourself, boy, and just play football. Follmer also demanded an apology from the Clevelend Browns organization, which to their credit, the Browns did not extend.

Instead, the Browns fired back with a statement saying the organization endorses the rights of players "to project their support and bring awareness to issues that are important to them if done so in a responsible manner."

Hawkins also weighed in with comments to the media that revealed, in fact, a deep knowledge and understanding of what law and justice mean (or should mean), contrary to Follmer's condescending remarks. "Justice," he said , "is a right that every American should have. Justice means that the innocent should be found innocent. It means that those who do wrong should get their due punishment."

His six-minute locker-room monologue to reporters ended with him choking up while drawing a parallel between his own young son and the tragic death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot by police in Cleveland on Nov. 22 while holding a toy gun.

"My number one reason for wearing the T-shirt was the thought of what happened to Tamir Rice happening to my little Austin. And that scares the living hell out of me," he said.

Protests and Fears

This genuine, personal fear of police violence is one that has been widely expressed over the last several weeks of protests taking hold across the country. As Democracy Now's Aaron Maté reported from New York's "Millions March" on Saturday, one of the dominant themes being expressed on the streets was "a sense of not feeling safe, not feeling safe themselves and not feeling safe for their loved ones, people of color in heavily policed communities."

Interviewing protester Darrell Greene, Maté asked him to explain his sign, which read "Me, my father, my son. Who's next?"

Greene responded, "At this point, I know I'm a productive citizen, and I don't feel safe in my own community. I've never been in trouble with law enforcement. And from what I'm seeing on the news and what's been going on, I really wonder: Am I next? I'm wondering if the people in my community are next. We're all productive citizens, and we're in fear for our life. We feel like it's open season on all minorities, and we want to know if we're really safe."

Protester Nilan Johnson echoed these sentiments. "I'm here because Americans, period, are being preyed on, right now," he said. "African-Americans are once again fighting for the right to be human, and I think that's horrible."

Asked whether he feels, as a person of color, whether he is unsafe in his community, Johnson replied, "That's - I feel that daily, so I feel that's a preconditioned nature now. I feel threatened and marked and cornered. And everybody here feels the same way. And we're trying to keep our humanity."

If not a direct byproduct of the war on terror's excesses and the impunity that law-breakers at the highest levels of government enjoy, this feeling of powerlessness, insecurity and injustice is certainly closely related. Indeed, as far back as 2007, civil rights leaders were drawing these connections, in particular in a report prepared for the United Nations entitled "In The Shadows Of The War On Terror: Persistent Police Brutality and Abuse of People of Color in the United States."

Since 9/11, the report explained , "there have been dramatic increases in law enforcement powers in the name of waging the 'war on terror,'" while simultaneously, counter-terrorism policies have "created a generalized climate of impunity for law enforcement officers, and contributed to the erosion of what few accountability mechanisms exist for civilian control over law enforcement agencies."

This has led to an erosion of public discussion and accountability with respect to the use of excessive force against people of color, while at the same time, "systemic abuse of people of color by law enforcement officers has not only continued since 2001 but has worsened in both practice and severity," according to the report. As a representative of the NAACP put it, "the degree to which police brutality occurs ... is the worst I've seen in 50 years."

Troubling Trend

Even establishment publications such as the have noticed the troubling trend of rising police violence and its connections with the war on terror. As a feature article in put it in August 2013, "the war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop - armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties."

This threat to liberties is compounded when the justice system fails to hold accountable those who break the law and violate people's rights. Whether it is Eric Garner in New York or Gul Rahman in Afghanistan, the victims of injustice must have redress, and "those who do wrong should get their due punishment," in the words of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins.

As human rights advocates and civil libertarians have warned since the early days of the "war on terror," human rights violations of terror suspects will eventually set the United States on a slippery slope in which authorities deem it optional whether to respect the human rights of anyone, including U.S. citizens. At that point, anyone is fair game, and all of us, including law-abiding Americans, may find ourselves at the mercy of an unsympathetic authoritarian state.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Superbomb winter storm predicted for Northeastern U.S. at Christmas

A "superbomb" storm is being predicted for Christmas Day in the Northeast United states according to WeatherBell Meteorologist Dr. Ryan Maue who has pointed out it looks to be reminiscent of the Cleveland Superbomb of 1978 aka the "Great New England Blizzard of 1978″.

This GFS forecast model for Christmas Day shows the depth of the low, poised to gather moisture from the Great Lakes and dump it into the Northeastern U.S. over the next 24-48 hours, making Christmas and post-Christmas travel a nightmare, but ... there is a twist.

Dr. Maue adds on his Twitter feed:

Exciting to see extreme weather forecasts with an item that requires dusting off the record books. 958 mb low

For reference, a 958 millibar low pressure system is as low as the central pressure for some tropical storms and nearly that of some hurricanes. For example Hurricane Sandy had a central pressure of 940 mbar or 27.76 inHg.

According to the article on the Cleveland Superbomb of 1978:

Meteorologists have a name for a storm that occurs when air pressure drops very rapidly as a jet stream brings in moisture: a weather bomb. In late January 1978, a low-pressure system moving from the Gulf Coast met with two other low-pressure systems, one from the Southwest and one from Canada, to create one of the worst snowstorms the Midwest has ever seen. With barometric pressure so low, it was more like a hurricane than a snowstorm, the so-called Cleveland Superbomb dumped 1-3 ft. (30-90 cm) of snow on several Midwestern states, including Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. Wind gusts approached 100 m.p.h. (160 km/h), causing snowdrifts to reach heights of 25 ft. (8 m) in some areas. Such snowdrifts made roadways impassable, forcing doctors and emergency personnel to ski and snowmobile their way to those in need. Indiana's governor sent tanks down I-65 to remove stranded trucks, while in Ohio, National Guard helicopters flew some 2,700 missions to help stranded drivers. About 70 deaths are attributed to the storm.

While the Cleveland Superbomb has an intriguing name, the most well-known snowstorm of that year was known simply as the Great New England Blizzard of 1978. On Feb. 6, about two weeks after the Superbomb, a blizzard dealt Boston and other parts of the Northeast as many as 27 in. (69 cm) of snow with winds of 80-110 m.p.h. (130-180 km/h). Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed and approximately 100 people died.

Maue adds:

I'll add, it also has nothing to do with that other favorite catchphrase of the media, the "polar vortex".

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

False flag: 5 reasons to question the official story of the 'Sydney Siege'

In the aftermath of yet another highly publicized terror attack (or at least the potential for a high profile attack) in Australia by foreign-born jihadists, the Western public is once again experiencing a variety of emotional reactions that they have carefully been trained to experience whenever such events take place at home or abroad.

The xenophobic pro-war right is predictably using the attack as an example of how all Muslims are terrorists and how their total annihilation and implementation of police state tactics are the only solution. The pathetic left-wing is attempting to portray the gunman as a "lone nut" with no political motives as a justification for more "anti-terror" laws. The vast majority in the middle, however, believe the official mainstream version of events, quake in their boots, and move on to the next form of entertainment provided to them by the culture creators without a second thought.

Yet, as is almost always the case, there is much more to the story than is being reported by mainstream outlets. There exists a number of unanswered questions and unexplained inconsistencies with the story of "Man Haron Monis" and his hostage taking escapade in Sydney.

1.) Man Haron Monis (aka Manteghi Boroujerdi) is Shiia, not Sunni.

While the mainstream reports may suggest that Monis is yet another ISIS-style terrorist that finally attempted to rise and meet his destiny by engaging in terrorist attacks in the West, there are a number of problems with the presentation in terms of details.

Western media reports that, among other ludicrous demands, Monis requested to be provided with an ISIS flag while holding up the café in the Sydney business district. The problem, however, is that Monis is Shiia, not Sunni. Sunni, of course, is the brand of Islam that ISIS espouses. While both sects see their share of fundamentalism, the twain do not mix.

Why then, would a Shiia cleric (fundamentalist or otherwise) request an IS flag at the scene of his crime for all the world to see?

2.) Is Monis A "Liberal Muslim" Or A "Fundamentalist Muslim?"

While the absurd request for an IS flag during the course of an act of violence being committed by a Shitte Muslim is enough to convince the average spectator that Monis was a member of ISIS, there is a distinct lack of consistency in the way in which Monis has been portrayed in the Western media. Nearly ten years ago, Monis was presented as a "liberal Muslim" preaching a brand of tolerant and mainstream Islam. Since 2013, however, Monis has been presented as both a murderer and now a terrorist. While the latter may certainly be true, the presentations are nonetheless contradictory.

Indeed, as Tony Cartalucci of Land Destroyer reports in his article "Who Created Cartoon Character 'Man Haron Monis' Behind 'Sydney Siege' Crisis," Monis has spoken glowingly of the West in the past; Canada, the United States, and Australia in particular. In an interview with The Religion Report of the Australian ABC, he stated,

...we can say Australia, Canada, England, USA, so many western countries, they are religious societies. They don't say 'We are religious', but in fact the spirit of religion, we can see the spirit of religion in these societies. And some other countries in the Middle East, in Asia, they say 'We are Islamic' they have a name of Islamic, but in fact they are not religious societies and religious governments. Whenever I walk in the street, whenever I go out in Australia, I feel I am in a real religious society. I don't want to say it is perfect, we don't have a perfect society on the earth, but when we compare, if we compare Australia with Iran and other countries in the Middle East, we can say it is heaven.

These are hardly the words of an Islamic terrorist filled with hatred for the West. Yet that is exactly what Monis is portrayed as being in later years. Indeed, there is little evidence to the contrary that the assailant was, in fact, Monis. The question then, is why the contradictory behavior and media portrayal of Monis.

3.) Monis Served US/NATO/West's Interests As Propaganda Tool Against Iran

Before Monis became the star of Sunday evening/Monday morning news, he served as a convenient agent of propaganda against the government of Iran, itself a major target of NATO and the West.

As Tony Cartalucci writes,

But before Monis/Boroujerdi's recent run-ins with the law and his role as chief "Muslim boogeyman" in Australia, he was "Manteghi Boroujerdi," a "victim" of the "Iranian regime" who was in love with Western society.

Australia's ABC in its "Religion Report" dated January 31, 2001, introduced Monis/Boroujerdi as follows:

...while in Sydney we talk to Ayatollah Manteghi Boroujerdi, an Iranian cleric espousing a liberal brand of Islam - dangerously liberal, as his views have led to his wife and two daughters being held hostage in Iran.

The interview itself is used as yet another vehicle to carry along Western propaganda long-aimed at Iran. It claims Monis/Boroujerdi's family is in grave danger and that Monis/Boroujerdi himself would be executed should he ever return to Iran. It quotes Monis/Boroujerdi several times including claims he was formally associated with Iranian intelligence:

In Iran, mostly I have been involved with the Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

And was in contact with the UN regarding security issues in Iran:

...more than four years I have not seen my family, and the Iranian regime doesn't let them come out. In fact I can say they are hostage; as a hostage the Iranian regime wants to make me silent, because I have some secret information about government, and about their terrorist operations in the war. I sent a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and somebody on behalf of Mr Kofi Anan sent the answer, and they want to do something. I have hope and always I pray and ask God to solve my problem.

4.) Did Monis Love His Wife And Fear For Her Safety Or Did He Kill Her?

Notice in the statement above that one of Monis' gripes with the Iranian government was that not only was he in personal danger as a result of his "liberal" teachings, but his family was in danger as well. Ironically, he stated that his family was being held hostage by the Iranian regime. However, fast forward to 2013, and Monis is facing charges on "accessory before and after the fact to the murder of [his ex-wife] Noleen Hayson Pal, 30, who was stabbed 18 times and set alight outside a western Sydney unit in April."

While Monis would certainly not be the first man to kill his ex-wife, his concern for her safety at the hands of the Iranian government does not match up with the concern he allegedly showed her in Australia. If Monis was truly the "Hate Sheik" as he was presented in the articles regarding his ex-wife's murder, then why was he first portrayed as such a loving liberal by the very same media?

It should also be noted that Monis recently made a reputation for himself by sending hate mail to the families of dead Australian soldiers who fought in Afghanistan. Monis' letter writing campaign was used to stir up tension between the pro and anti-war factions in Australian society and cause quite the controversy publicly.

5.) Shiite Clerics In Australia Did Not Trust Monis

By 2008, Shiite religious leaders in Australia had asked Australian Federal security agents to investigate Monis and his activities. As an article in the reported,

FEDERAL agents have been urged by the nation's senior Shia leader, Kamal Mousselmani, to investigate an Iranian man purporting to be a prominent Islamic cleric.

Sheik Mousselmani told yesterday the mystery cleric - who has been identified as Ayatollah Manteghi Boroujerdi on his website after appearing under the name Sheik Haron - was not a genuine Shia spiritual leader.

He said there were no ayatollahs - supreme Shia scholars - in Australia and none of his fellow spiritual leaders knew who Ayatollah Boroujerdi or Sheik Haron was.

"We don't know him and we have got nothing to do with him," Sheik Mousselmani said. "The federal police should investigate who he is. It should be their responsibility."

Yet, as Cartalucci adds in his own article,

But it was the Australian media itself who introduced him publicly as an "Ayatollah" and the Australian government that vetted him and allegedly granted him political asylum. He was allegedly in contact with the UN and was used to stir up anti-Iranian sentiment in Australia. It is then highly suspicious that now both the Australian media and the Australian government appear to have no knowledge of who he is or where he came from.


Whatever the true nature of Monis may be - legitimate mental patient, patsy, or tool of Western intelligence agencies - there is clearly much more to the story than what the mainstream press is printing and promoting.

Regardless, the only thing that we can know with absolute certainty is that the Sydney Siege will be used as propaganda to the utmost effect by all Western and NATO governments in the push for further war abroad and an even greater police state at home.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Netanyahu slams EU taking Hamas off terror list while Defense Minister says 'Israel might be forced to attack Gaza again'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday slammed a recent decision by a top European court to remove Palestinian faction Hamas from the EU's list of "terrorist" organizations.

"The friendship we see from the United States stands in complete contrast to what we are seeing regretfully in Europe," according to a statement issued by Netanyahu's office just before he was scheduled to meet with U.S. Senator-elect Joni Ernst.

"We saw today examples hanging before us of European prejudice," Netanyahu was quoted as saying.

Earlier Wednesday, the European Court in Luxemburg revoked a previous decision by the Council of the European Union to include Hamas on its list of "terrorist" groups.

In 2001, the council put Hamas' armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, on its list of "terrorist" groups. Two years later, it added Hamas itself to the list.

At the beginning of his meeting with Ernst, Netanyahu said that, in Geneva, a group of Europeans had been calling for an investigation of alleged Israeli war crimes.

"While in Luxembourg, the European court removed Hamas from the terrorist list," Netanyahu said in the statement.

"It's like there are too many people in Europe, on the ground where six million Jews were slaughtered, who haven't learned a thing," he added.

In justifying its decision to remove Hamas from the list, the court pointed out that the Council of the European Union's initial decision to include Hamas on the list had been based on media reports rather than calculated analysis.

Nevertheless, the court maintained a freeze on Hamas funds, which will remain in place for another three months or until it is appealed.

The Israeli army might be forced to attack Gaza again, said the Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Tuesday, according to the army's radio channel.

Ya'alon met with Israeli soldiers and told them that they need to be ready for another war in Gaza anytime, the Israeli news radio reported. Ya'alon reportedly said, "The army might be forced to attack Gaza with all its power."

Israel has conducted several limited incursions into the Gaza Strip since it signed an August 26 cease-fire agreement with Palestinian resistance factions.

That cease-fire agreement was signed to end the Israel's seven-week-long military onslaught on the coastal territory, which left over 2,160 Palestinians dead and more than 11,000 injured - the vast majority of them civilians - in July and August.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Elites use fascism and war to crush revolutionary movements

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1937 with Adolf Hitler.

Listening to Pauwels makes one realize the scope of the lies we've been fed about the Second World War, fascism and democracy, and how myths related to previous wars need to be upheld in the mainstream discourse to satisfy never ending war propaganda needs.

The myth of the Good War

Every time Westerners' approval for war is required, the myth of the good war surfaces: the Second World War was a good war, a necessity to quench Hitler's blood thirst. Pauwels tears this myth apart, uncovering the vicious nature of the western elite.

The reasons for the US involvement in World War II lie in the social-economic conditions of the time, not in an outpouring of compassion destined to save humanity from fascism. The US elite was actually in favor of fascism, a very convenient tool to crush the mass revolutionary movement embodied by the Russian Revolution and the USSR.

WWII was in fact a continuity of WWI. "We are always told that WWI started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but it's not true", Pauwels says. It is indeed a well established myth carried on by various sources, whether history is written by "thousands of eminent experts, scholars, and leaders" like in Encyclopedia Britannica, or by just about anybody, like in Wikipedia:

The outbreak of war

With Serbia already much aggrandized by the two Balkan Wars (1912 - 13, 1913), Serbian nationalists turned their attention back to the idea of "liberating" the South Slavs of Austria-Hungary. Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević, head of Serbia's military intelligence, was also, under the alias "Apis," head of the secret society Union or Death, pledged to the pursuit of this pan-Serbian ambition. Believing that the Serbs' cause would be served by the death of the Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austrian emperor Francis Joseph, and learning that the Archduke was about to visit Bosnia on a tour of military inspection, Apis plotted his assassination. (World War I, Encyclopedia Britannica)

The immediate trigger for war was the 28 June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. This set off a diplomatic crisis when Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia,[10][11] and international alliances formed over the previous decades were invoked. Within weeks, the major powers were at war and the conflict soon spread around the world. (World War I, Wikipedia)

Both WWI and WWII had two dimensions: the vertical dimension, namely the rivalry between empires, and the horizontal one, class warfare, Pauwels explains.

These wars were actually the best way for the western elite to cope with the ever growing revolutionary and democratic movements fueled by dire economic conditions and which threatened the established order.

In Nietzsche's view for example, Pauwels says "war was the solution against revolution, since in a war, there are no discussions, like there is in a democracy. In a war, the minority, the elite, decides and the majority, the proletarians, obey."

For members of the elite like Malthus, "the system could not be the cause of poverty since they were profiting from it. The cause of poverty was the poor: there were too many of them. Therefore the solution to poverty and threatening revolutionary movements was simply to eliminate poor people and what better solution than war to kill poor people?"

After WWI though, "revolution was no longer a simple idea but rather something concrete: the Soviet Union." That's when fascism came to the rescue. "Fascism was the instrument used by the elite to further the objectives of 1914, namely put an end to revolutions and communism."

Communism and socialism were gaining worldwide momentum after WWI. "The German industrial and financial elite wished to crush the revolutionary movement and destroy the Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler was their instrument."

According to popular belief Western leaders were defending democracy, engaged in a war against Germany to save humanity from fascism and the US involvement in the war led to the downfall of Hitler's war machine. Nothing is further from the truth. "Hitler was supported by other European countries and the US because they wanted him to destroy the USSR, the cradle of the revolution." The exact opposite occurred: it was the USSR that defeated Nazi Germany, losing over 20 million souls in the battle.

The US even recruited the best Nazi scientists, technicians and engineers to work for them after the war. That piece of history called Operation Paperclip (picture below) has yet to find its way in Encyclopedia Britannica.

WWII was the victory of American Imperialism, a term which is rarely used today even if it best describes the reality the world has been living in ever since.

But even more surprising is the surviving myth that we are going to war to save the world from evil dictators or terrorists and that the western world fights for freedom and democracy. Thanks to the "stenographers of power", the tactic is still reliable and used several decades later.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Keystone XL pipeline: TransCanada sends final offers to 100-plus Nebraska landowners

Keystone XL pipeline

© Associated Press

A stake in the ground wrapped with tape that marks the route of the Keystone XL pipeline in Tilden, Nebraska, on March 17, 2014

Lincoln - As the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate pledged quick approval of the Keystone XL pipeline early next year, final offers were landing Tuesday in dozens of Nebraska mailboxes.

TransCanada Corp. said it mailed new offers of right-of-way payments this week to more than 100 Nebraska landowners who have refused to sign an easement contract.

The letters also say the company will pursue eminent domain against landowners who don't agree to terms by Jan. 16. The company says Nebraska law requires condemnation proceedings to start within two years of the state's approval of the pipeline route, which occurred Jan. 22, 2013.

"This really is an effort to reach voluntary agreements rather than going through the eminent domain process," said Andrew Craig of Omaha, Keystone's land manager. "We always prefer to go through negotiations."

The director of a leading pipeline opposition group said there are 115 landowner holdouts, and she expects them to refuse the latest offer. Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska also argued that the company lacks a legal basis to use eminent domain since the state's pipeline routing law has been declared unconstitutional and is under review by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

"This is not about money," Kleeb said. "This is about their family legacies, their land and protecting their water."

The state's highest court could rule on the pipeline case as early as Friday.

While landowners were opening envelopes Tuesday, Sen. Mitch McConnell was promising to put a Keystone XL bill at the top of the agenda when the Senate convenes in January. Passage of legislation approving the pipeline is likely in a Republican-controlled Senate, which could set up an early veto confrontation with President Barack Obama.

Congressional Republicans have been pushing for approval of the pipeline for years. Obama has resisted because of environmental concerns.

"We're optimistic we can pass it and put it on the president's desk," McConnell said

The $8 billion pipeline would carry up to 830,000 barrels of heavy crude oil daily from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Environmentalists say the issue is a significant test of Obama's commitment to addressing climate change. Republicans and other supporters say the project would create jobs and promote energy security, reducing reliance on oil from the Middle East.

The Republican-led House has repeatedly passed legislation approving the pipeline. But the bills have died in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Last month, a bill fell one vote short of advancing in the Senate.

It could be a lively debate next year. McConnell promised to allow unlimited amendments, meaning that senators could try to force votes on all kinds of unrelated issues.

Such debates have become rare in the Senate in recent years. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., often uses parliamentary procedures to prevent amendments on most bills.

Meanwhile, TransCanada says it has reached land-use agreements with 84 percent of the more than 500 landowners along the 275-mile proposed route in Nebraska. Craig, the company's land manager, said he is hopeful the latest mailing will push the total above 90 percent.

The latest offers do not include the signing bonuses that were offered in past mailings, Craig said.

If the State Supreme Court sides with the landowners who successfully sued to strike down the pipeline routing law, the company will file a new application with the Nebraska Public Service Commission. The first route was authorized by the governor, which a lower court judge ruled was an unconstitutional delegation of power.

The Public Service Commission review could possibly require adjustments to the existing route. But TransCanada will argue that the route has been thoroughly vetted by state and federal environmental regulators.

By acting soon on eminent domain filings, the company will be poised to proceed if the Supreme Court rules in its favor, Craig said.

Kleeb, the pipeline opponent, said that if the project does go before the PSC, she and others will argue that the route must be moved because it still crosses sandy soils and a portion of the Ogallala Aquifer in northeast Nebraska.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Strange hairless creature washes up dead on California beach

A mysterious creature with sharp claws and pointy teeth was discovered on a beach in Santa Barbara on Tuesday after the most recent storm hitting the area.

The apparent monster is brownish in color and was discovered near a drain washout, reports KEYT.com. The unidentified beast has left residents baffled and no one has been able to identify the species of animal found on the shore nor do they know where it came from.

Santa Barbara saw brutal storms over the past few days that left behind damage in the area.

A similar looking creature was found in San Diego back in June of 2012. The picture was taken by Josh Menard, a 19-year-old snowboarder from Lake Tahoe.

Distant cousins: This picture was taken by Josh Menard, a 19-year-old snowboarder from Lake Tahoe visiting San Diego in 2012 resembles that of the creature found on Tuesday

According to Josh, the animal is about 2ft long and 'had the body shape of a pig - kind of a fat stomach, middle area. And the canines were just ridiculously large.'

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

US: Ground beef prices climb to another record

The average price of a pound of ground beef climbed to another record high -- $4.201 per pound -- in the United States in November, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In August 2014, the average price for a pound of all types of ground beef topped $4 for the first time, hitting $4.013, according to the BLS. In September, the average price jumped to $4.096 per pound, and in October, the average price climbed to $4.154 per pound. In November, the average price hit the highest price ever recorded -- $4.201 per pound.

A year ago, in November 2013, the average price for a pound of ground beef was $3.477 per pound. Since then, the average price has increased 20.8 percent in one year.

Five years ago, in November 2009, the average price of a pound of ground beef was $2.062, according to the BLS. The price has since climbed by $2.139 per pound, or 103.7 percent.

The overall Consumer Price Index measures the relative change in the prices of a basket of goods and services relative to a basis of 100. Subordinate indexes measure the relative change in price for individual goods or services or categories of goods and services.

The price index for seasonally adjusted, uncooked ground beef hit an all-time high of 296.616 in November, up 1.4 percent from October when it was 292.588. In 1947, the earliest year in this index, it was 26.5.

"The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) declined 0.3 percent in November on a seasonally adjusted basis," states BLS. "Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 1.3 percent before seasonal adjustment."

"The food index rose 0.2 percent in November after increasing 0.1 percent in October," states BLS. "The index for meats, poultry, fish and eggs increased 0.6 percent in November after declining in October. The index for beef and veal rose 0.8 percent, its tenth consecutive increase."

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Former police officer arrested 3 times in one day, twice for DUI

John Biehn

A former Bridgeport police officer, accused in the past of drunkenly shooting up a city housing complex, was arrested three times in about 11 hours stretching into early Tuesday, following a Monday court appearance on a drunken-driving charge.

The first incident occurred just before 1:30 p.m., Vernon police said, when they pulled over 39-year-old John Biehn, of Southington, in the parking lot of McDonald's on Talcottville Road after receiving a call that a blue Hyundai Sonata was being driven erratically and on the wrong side of Route 83.

Biehn told officers he was coming from state Superior Court in Rockville, and he failed a standardized sobriety test, police said. Vernon police charged him with operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and failure to drive in the proper lane.

Biehn's court appearance concerned similar charges stemming from a July 26 incident, according to the state judicial website. He entered an initial plea of not guilty and is scheduled for his next court date on those charges in January.

He was released from Vernon Police Headquarters on $2,500 bond posted by his wife, Bridgeport Police Det. Kimberly Biehn.

Then, at 8:20 p.m. Monday, John Biehn was arrested again on a drunken-driving charge by Wallingford Police. He was released once more on $2,500 bond posted by his wife, according to Wallingford Police Lt. Mark Mikulski.

A few hours later, after midnight, Wallingford police arrested John Biehn again. Police responded this time to a Wal-Mart, where he was being held by store security and accused of stealing various items. He was charged with larceny and released on $5,000 bond.

In 2006, John Biehn was acquitted of most of the charges stemming from a 2004 incident in which, while he was still on the Bridgeport police force, he allegedly went on a drunken rampage at the Marina Village housing complex, firing his gun at random and breaking apartment windows.

He was convicted of first-degree reckless endangerment and sentenced to one year of incarceration, which was later suspended. He was also sentenced to three years' probation and later resigned from the Bridgeport Police Department.

Biehn is scheduled to face the Vernon DUI charges in court on Dec. 22.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Strange contrails appear over Russian town

Multiple eyewitnesses, including one who was quick with her camera, spotted strange squiggly contrails just before dawn one morning this week over Biysk in southern Russia. Many of the witnesses believed the contrails were from UFOs. Were they?

According to reports, Elisha Ponomaryov saw other people looking skyward and pointing at the contrails. She didn't know what they were but had the presence of mind to take a photo. Unfortunately, she was too late to capture what caused the contrails. However, other witnesses claimed to have seen three or four yellow spheres flying haphazardly and leaving the trails behind them. One was Zemfira Bocharova, who gave this description:

I saw them at 6.25am and there were four, one of them was particularly bright and two others were flying parallel with that - and then the forth one was at a different angle and further away from the other three.

As usual, there was no comment from space or government officials or the military on the strange contrails. There was some speculation that they could have been from a rocket, possibly carrying a secret payload, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but that's 1,500 miles from Biysk and there was no report of any launches on that day. Meteors and weather were also suggested, but there were no meteor reports and no weather incidents that could have caused the trails.

Contrails formed by planes in a holding pattern

Circular contrails are not unusual, especially near airports where planes often fly in holding patterns. They can also be seen over military bases but the patterns are generally more regular, not the random scribbles seen over Biysk.

So what caused the strange Biysk contrails? The city is a center for solid-fuel rocket production. Were the yellow spheres UFOs checking out the competition?

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Witness photographs incredible transparent geodesic shaped UFO over Austria

Link to actual photo

Witness: "I'm a resident of Vienna in Austria and when I was on the balcony, I saw this huge transparent vehicle floating above the clouds for about two minutes." "I grabbed my phone (Samsung Galaxy S5) and after I took a photograph of it, the vehicle was gone." "I've never seen anything like it, it was strange."

Mufon case 61696.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Attorney General Downplays Ties To MPAA... Just As NY Times Reveals MPAA Actually Wrote The Letter He Sent Google

Last week, we wrote about how some of the leaked emails from the Sony hack revealed that the MPAA was funding and coordinating various Attorneys General attacks on Google, even over topics that have nothing to do with copyright infringement. In response, Mississippi AG Jim Hood told the Huffington Post that he barely knows anyone at the MPAA, and has no idea who their lawyers are -- and that the MPAA has "no major influence" on what he's working on:

Hood said the MPAA "has no major influence on my decision-making," although he noted that content creators occasionally provide reports and advice to him. "They're just reporting wrongdoing. There's nothing unusual about that," he said. Hood said he has never asked MPAA a legal question, isn't sure which lawyers they employ, and doesn't think he's ever met the organization's general counsel.

Okay. Now keep that above paragraph in mind as you read the latest report from the NY Times, in which reporters Nick Wingfield and Eric Lipton (who just a few months ago had written that big article on

questionable lobbying of Attorneys General


dig deeper into the Sony emails

concerning the MPAA and AGs Jim Hood and Jon Bruning from Nebraska. The Times also uses some public records requests to show that the infamous letter that Hood sent to Google

was almost entirely written by the MPAA's lawyers

. You can see the whole thing at the link, but this thumbnail shows a pretty long letter with the only parts actually written by Hood's office being the intro at the top in green and a few minor word choices. All the rest came from the MPAA's lawyers at Jenner and Block.

So... Hood claims that he doesn't even know the MPAA's lawyers, that it has no influence on what he does and that the MPAA is "just reporting wrongdoing" -- but then he takes a ~4,000 word letter that those same MPAA lawyers (that he claims he doesn't know) wrote, tosses on an intro and a few minor grammatical corrections, and sends it to Google? The letter itself is a piece of pure propaganda as well, completely misrepresenting a few things, taking others out of context, and making some bizarre legal arguments. Hood, of course, is no stranger to

controversy and claims of cronyism

, but this is taking things to another level.

The NY Times further uncovers that the "go-between" for the MPAA and Hood is a lobbyist the MPAA hired to run an MPAA front group. That lobbyist? Hood's predecessor and close friend:

The movie industry, through a nonprofit group it funded called Digital Citizens Alliance, picked the perfect lobbyist to squeeze Mr. Hood: Mike Moore. Mr. Moore was Mr. Hood’s predecessor as Mississippi attorney general and helped start Mr. Hood’s political career. He remains a close friend of the attorney general and travels with him frequently; he has even played a role in helping Mr. Hood get elected as the president of the National Association of Attorneys General, emails obtained by The Times show.

That front group, the "Digital Citizens Alliance," is one we discussed earlier this year, when it released a report about "evil" cyberlockers based on a misreading of

two debunked studies

. Certain cyberlockers have demanded a retraction of the report because of its ridiculous and shoddy methodology. In other words, the Alliance is not exactly the most trustworthy of operations -- and it's hired Jim Hood's best buddy and political mentor. But Hood wants us to believe that this group has no influence on him?

Even other Attorneys General find the situation questionable:

Peggy Lautenschlager, who served as attorney general in Wisconsin, said that the role that the movie industry had played in pushing Mr. Hood, through Mr. Moore and others, was inappropriate. “A private interest is influencing some attorneys general’s offices,” she said.

Meanwhile, others are trying to understand why Jim Hood is so close with the MPAA at all, since Mississippi doesn't even have much of a connection

to the film business


That makes his behavior all the more unusual since Mississippi has almost no economic interest in the movie industry. Indeed, the state lacks a major film school, doesn’t house production for a single scripted TV show, and has served as the main shooting location for only 5 widely released movies over the past decade. The MPAA itself says that the state has a total of 242 film-and-television-production related jobs; one of the smallest per-capita totals in the nation. All-in-all Mississippi has more people who make their living arranging flowers (460, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ databases) than in film and TV production. Maybe Jim Hood really likes hanging out with movie moguls?

Hood's stated reasoning makes even less sense:

"Google's not a government, they may think they are, but they don't owe anyone a First Amendment right," Hood told The Huffington Post. "If you're an illegal site, you ought to clean up your act, instead of Google making money off it."


Hood recalled a meeting in Boston, where a high school girl demonstrated to attorneys general how easy it was for her to find a violent version of "Django Unchained" on the Internet. "Some of the AGs were amazed at that real-time example of what Google is assisting," Hood said.

Hood has "tried to get Google to delist several sites," relating to pharmaceuticals. He said he views movies and music piracy as "insignificant" to state prosecutors, compared with more serious types of crime. But Hood said he would support a nonprofit organization coming up with a list of piracy sites that Google would remove from search results. He argued that current copyright law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, isn't adequate, because a website can get millions of takedown notices, but still do business as usual.

It appears Hood is quite confused about, well, nearly everything. No, Google doesn't "owe anyone" a First Amendment right, but the government does. And here it appears that Hood -- a government representative -- is flat out supporting a censorship list of websites that must be blocked. Furthermore, he doesn't seem to understand the difference between a search engine and actually hosting or uploading infringing content. He also doesn't seem to recognize the history of blacklists and the fact that they


over-censor. Nor does he seem to understand how Google functions. All of these things would be rather easy to find out -- but just as easy to ignore if the MPAA is the one giving you all your talking points and legal documents.

Meanwhile, the original letters revealed that the MPAA was looking for other Attorneys General it could convince to get in on the game, and the NY Times notes that a clear target is Nebraska's Jon Bruning:

The movie association and its member companies, the messages show, have assigned a team of lawyers to prepare draft subpoenas and legal briefs for the attorneys general. And the groups have delivered campaign contributions — with several movie studios sending checks — to Jon Bruning, the Republican attorney general of Nebraska, who was helping push their cause, and who made an unsuccessful bid for governor this year.

Meanwhile, the reaction to all of this has been fascinating. I've seen multiple lawyers connected to Hollywood have kneejerk reactions that paying for an investigation, coordinating all of the efforts including writing up the letters and subpoenas, is just normal, everyday "aggressive competition." Yet, these are the same people who go out there and claim that you sharing a copy of a movie you liked with someone else is morally bankrupt and evil. Some people, it seems, have a different moral compass. Frankly, private companies financing government investigations of other private companies seems a hell of a lot more morally questionable than someone sharing a copy of a film they like.

SOTT FOCUS: Proxy War Against Russia: Ukrainian Nazis teaming up with 'Chechen' terrorists


Yesterday, Head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov told NTV channel he'd like to quit his post as leader of Chechnya and help the local militias in Novorussia (Donetsk and Lugansk) fight their Ukrainian attackers. This comes after Kiev's corrupt officials initiated criminal proceedings against him last week and threatened to put him on an international 'wanted' list. He responded:

They can keep saying whatever they like. But I am going to ask the (Russian) president for permission to quit my post in order to go to Donbass to protect the interests of those citizens who are fighting there now.

The day after the probable false-flag terror attack in Chechnya's capital city Grozny on December 4, several members of the Ukrainian Rada, including Yuri Beryoza, Andriy Levus and Ihor Moiseychuk voiced their support for the terrorist attack, calling for a "second front" to open in Russia's Caucasus region. One of these fools, Moiseychuk, even implied a wish for Kadyrov's assassination, uploading a video of him shooting an assault rifle at a photograph of Kadyrov.

You can't expect much better from the likes of Moiseychuk. He's a former commander for Azov battalion, one of Ukraine's openly fascist death squads (don't believe me? see here, here, and here, and this, and this).

Both Kadyrov and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded with proposals to initiate criminal proceedings against these idiots, with Lavrov calling their statements "blasphemous and cynical". Add psychopathic to that list of adjectives! Kadyrov was more up-front, promising to bury all those who support the terrorists. Like the simpering cowards they are, Beryoza, Levus and Moiseychuk then had their personal security beefed up in response.

Now, there's a report that Khasan Zakaev, one of the Chechen terrorists involved in the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis, was caught crossing into Crimea from Ukraine with a fake passport. How curious! Ukrainian Nazi terrorists showing their ideological support for Chechen terrorism, making open and veiled threats against one of their biggest enemies (Kadyrov), and now providing safe haven for wanted murderers and giving them safe passage into Russian territory to do god knows what (we can guess).

What's up with this unlikely match?

The Chechen 'rebels' or 'separatists', as the Western media like to call them, are in fact Wahabi terrorists, despite how hard the West tries to avoid the word. Foreign-backed and foreign-trained, they're just one more branch of the West's Christmas Tree of Proxy Terror. As Ennio Adams wrote recently, Prince Bandar Bush of Saudi Arabia even threatened Putin with turning them loose at the Sochi Winter Olympics if Putin didn't comply with Bandar's wishes.

To get some background on the conflict in Chechnya (which is practically non-existent now, thanks to Putin and Kadyrov's efforts), read Alexander Mercouris's recent overview here. In it, he writes:

What is indisputable is that over the period of its self-declared independence, first under Dudayev from 1992 to 1994, and then from 1996 to 1999, Chechnya became heavily infiltrated by Islamic militants some of them with links to what became Al Qaeda. As time passed these groups became increasingly dominant and by 1999 were effectively in control. Following several years of growing gangsterism, frequently punctuated with mass kidnappings and ransom demands of people from southern Russia, in 1999 these militant jihadis launched an invasion of the neighboring republic of Dagestan and a series of bomb attacks on apartment buildings in Moscow. By this point their agenda was no longer independence for Chechnya but an Islamist war against Russia.

This war has been fought with relentless ferocity ever since. Using the same methods as other Al Qaeda affiliated jihadi groups, indiscriminate attacks have been launched against the Russian civilian population, including horrifying terrorist outrages such as the Nord-Ost Theatre siege and the massacre of schoolchildren at Beslan.

And as James Corbett and Sibel Edmonds have been pointing out repeatedly in the last couple years, this isn't simply a matter of "homegrown" terrorism within Russia's borders. The rise of these radical, militant groups is essentially Operation Gladio 2.0, scripted, created, funded, aided and abetted by CIA/Mossad/MI6/NATO. In a recent talk, Corbett spelled it out. These terrorist groups, like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, the various groups in Syria, in Chechnya, are simply the continuation of the Cold War-era Gladio "strategy of tension". Only instead of targeting the Soviets, it's the Russians, via that geostrategic region: the Caucasus and Central Asia.

So it's really no surprise that the Ukrainian Nazi terrorists would team up with the Chechen Wahabi terrorists. They serve the same masters, after all. And their psychopathy binds them together in a sort of brotherhood of barbarism.

Zakaev turning up in Crimea via Ukraine also reminds me of another newsbite from just over a month ago. RT and various other sources reported that the so-called "White Widow" -- widow of 7/7 'bomber' Germaine Lindsay, housewife-turned-terrorist-mastermind, and in all likelihood a British intelligence asset (see Jon Ryman's documentary below and listen to SOTT's interview with him here), was fighting for another Nazi battalion in Ukraine, the Aidar battalion, where she was shot dead by a volunteer Russian sniper:

[embedded content]

But after that initial report, nothing. What's the story? A couple possibilities come to mind. First, it didn't happen -- the report of her death was a Russian ruse, perhaps a hint to Western intelligence that Russia knows the game and can use their own agents and assets against them. Second, it really did happen. In which case, why no further information? Did the Russians use the event, and subsequently put a lid on information, in return for some concession from the West? After all, one of the West's 'most wanted' terrorists turning up and fighting for the West's allies in Kiev would make for bad press, to say the least.

Whatever the case, the important point is this: just as the U.S. is supporting a gang of genocidal Nazi thugs, greedy and inept oligarchs, and laughable politicians in Ukraine -- all in an effort to goad Russia into armed conflict -- for the last thirty-odd years, the U.S. has also been supporting a gang of genocidal Wahabi terrorists -- all in an effort to control strategic Russian/Central Asian territory, destabilize Russia, and bring her under the boot of American hegemony. They just don't seem to get it: Russia will not give in so easily.


Harrison Koehli (Profile)

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.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

How we unwittingly assist the surveillance state


© Omar Rubio

We live in a world increasingly dominated by our personal data.

Some of those data we choose to reveal, for example, through social media, email and the billions - yes, billions - of messages, photos and Tweets we post every day.

Still other data are required to be collected by government programs that apply to travel, banking, and employment and other services provided by the private sector. All of these are subject to extensive government data collection and reporting requirements.

Many of our activities generate data that we are not even aware exist, much less that they are recorded. In 2013, the public carried 6.8 billion cell phones. They not only generate digital communications, photos and video recordings, but also constantly report the user's location to telephone service providers. Smartphone apps, too, often access location data and share them through the internet.

Added to the mix are video and audio surveillance, cookies and other technologies that observe online behavior, and RFID chips embedded in passports, clothing and other goods - a trove of data collected without our awareness.

Trillions of transactions a year

Much of this data is aggregated by third parties we've never heard of with whom we have limited or no direct dealings. According to The New York Times, one of these companies, known as Acxiom, alone engages in 50 trillion data transactions a year, almost none collected directly from individuals.

Known as information intermediaries, they calculate or infer information from demographic information such as income level, education, gender and sex; census forms; and past behavior, such as what clothes and foods someone purchased. That can generate data profiles that can be very revealing and used in determining credit scores, marketing predictions and other ways to quantify us.

As the volume, importance and, indeed, the value of personal data expand, so too does the urgency of protecting the information from harmful or inappropriate uses. But as we know, that's not easy.

Most data protection laws in the US and elsewhere place some or all of the responsibility for protecting privacy on individual subjects through what's called "notice and consent."

In 1998, for example, the US Federal Trade Commission, after reviewing the "fair information practice codes" of the United States, Canada and Europe, reported to Congress that the "most fundamental" principles to protect privacy are "notice" and "consumer choice or consent."

US statutes and regulations tend to parallel the FTC's rules and recommendations on notice and choice. All US financial institutions are required to send every customer a privacy notice every year, and doctors, hospitals and pharmacies provide similar notices, usually on every visit.

The focus on notice and consent is not limited to the United States. The draft of the European Union's General Data Protection cites "consent" more than 100 times and emphasizes its importance.

All our fault

The truth is that notice and consent laws do little to protect privacy but typically just shift the responsibility for protecting privacy from the data user to the data subject - that would be us. After all, if anything goes wrong, it is our fault because we consented - often without realizing it.

Individual consent is rarely exercised as a meaningful choice. We are all overwhelmed with many long, complex privacy policies that most of us never read.

It is no wonder. One 2008 study calculated that reading the privacy policies of just the most popular websites would take an individual 244 hours - or more than 30 full working days - each year.

A reliance on notice and choice both under-protects privacy and can interfere with and raise the cost of beneficial uses of data, such as medical research and innovative products and services. (This is especially true when personal information is used by parties with no direct relationship to the individual, generated by sensors or inferred by third parties.)

'Fantasy world'

In a May 2014 report, the US President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology described the "framework of notice and consent" as "unworkable as a useful foundation for policy." The report stressed that "only in some fantasy world do users actually read these notices and understand their implications before clicking to indicate their consent."

There are better alternatives. One is enacting laws that place substantive limits on risky or harmful data uses, for instance. Another is to increase oversight by government and self-regulatory agencies, which could potentially forbid certain uses of personal data by third parties.

Many privacy advocates note that the US is the only industrialized country without a dedicated privacy office in the federal government. Creating one might help ensure more attention is paid to privacy.

Other efforts are underway to restrict notice and choice to times when they are necessary and meaningful, and then to make them simpler and clearer.

Another promising approach would be to ensure that businesses take responsibility for their uses of personal data by making them legally liable for the reasonably foreseeable harm they cause, rather than allowing them to use notice and consent to continue shifting the responsibility to us.

At minimum, big users of personal data should be required to assess and document the risk those uses pose, and the steps they have taken to mitigate those risks. A more formal approach to managing privacy risks could better protect privacy, lead to greater consistency and predictability over time, and allow data users to make productive uses of data if risks can be mitigated.

The alternative is to continue to rely on notices no one reads, choices no one understands, and the other ineffective tools of the fantasy world that privacy law has become.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Reading between the lines: Lavrov's recent interview with France 24


People who periodically confuse the TV series with the war in Donbass, send texts for Strelkov/Gubarev, and demand to bring in troops to the TNT channel - are particularly paranoid. Their paranoia progresses so quickly that in no time they will be mortified by just the word "Ukraine," in response reciting: "Putiiin Duuumped, La-La-La-La-La-La! Putiiin Duuumped, La-La-La-La-La-La".

A special case of such a fright we discuss below. But honestly, we would not be commenting on it, if in addition to words which caused panic among LiveJournal 'political scientists', there would not be very important and fundamental statements.

If you are really concerned about one issue or another, always start with a review of the primary sources of information. The transcript of the interview of Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to "France 24" can be found here.

We highlight a few things that caused some noise and have essential implications.


Question: Is the President of Ukraine a reliable partner?

Lavrov: P. A. Poroshenko is the best chance that Ukraine has at the present.

Question: Do you not trust P. A. Poroshenko and his following?

Lavrov: I can't say that we have any difficulties in contacts with the Ukrainian President P. A. Poroshenko, at least at the level of the leaders of the two countries. There is a regular dialogue. I am in contact with my counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine P. A. Klimkin. I believe that we have established a close business relationship. Most important for the Ukrainian government - to understand that it is their country and their obligations, that there is no need to waste time on the power struggle that is taking place now in Kiev, but to begin reforms, including constitutional and everything that they themselves promised and pledged to do. The constitutional process should be transparent and inclusive, involving all regions and political forces. This was stated in a festive ceremony in Geneva during the meeting of representatives of the European Union, USA, Russia and Ukraine on April 17, when a corresponding statement was adopted. But we still don't see any real effort to begin a constitutional reform. Until this problem is solved, we will continue to deal with various problems, because the constitutional issue is a systemic problem in Ukraine. They urgently need to solve it.

Lavrov did not respond to the question "whether the President of Ukraine is a reliable partner?" and says that Poroshenko is the best chance for a modern Ukraine (probably better then Yatsenyuk-Kolomoisky?) Here it is completely unclear, "the best chance" for what? For the collapse of the country, for the defeat of Ukraine in Donbass and Novorossia as a whole, to discredit the ideas of European integration, or something else...

The main point is made after. Please note that Lavrov says exactly what Russian officials claimed since spring - we need an inclusive constitutional process, involving all regions and political forces. In Donbass there are political forces, such as DPR and LPR official representatives of which should participate in the constitutional process. And maybe! Maybe! They will not agree, but until it is finally revealed, a full statehood will be built. As it was built in Transnistria, in the course of negotiations with Moldova.


Question: Does this mean a certain degree of autonomy for the Donetsk and Lugansk regions?

Lavrov: This is to be decided by Ukrainians themselves. We do not suggest federalization or autonomy. By the way, the word "autonomy" or "decentralization" was used by French President Francois Hollande, about autonomy spoke the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy F. Mogherini. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry once asked me why they can not provide a "limited autonomy". Well, English has many synonyms, but it is not the words, that are important, but the essence. As promised, the Ukrainians themselves from all the regions and from all political parties should be delegated to meet and discuss how these regions would like to elect their leaders, to agree on the system of distribution of taxes between central and local authorities, which language is preferred for a particular region, what holidays they want to celebrate. For example, birthdays of Nazi collaborators Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych, which are now proposed to be made official holidays of Ukraine. I do not think that in the East of the country they will be celebrated. Unfortunately, I do not think that in the West of Ukraine they will celebrate the Day of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. That is, they need to agree on what holidays they will have in the country. This is a very important psychological moment. And until the systemic problem of the constitution is resolved, every day they will have to face more and more difficulties.

Federalization - is it a linguistic fetish or a particular political result? Lavrov fully articulated the whole agenda for federalization:

  • a) Self-determination of regions in terms of language and general cultural and educational policy (the subject of holidays - this is a huge cultural-educational complex of issues). Everyone understands what the issue about different languages and different holidays (holidays directly antagonistic to each other) means?

  • b) Governors' Elections

  • c) Economic autonomy (tax redistribution in favor of the regions)

The main thing here is this: "Ukrainians themselves from all the regions and from all political parties should be delegated to meet and discuss how these regions would like to...". That is, we again return to the question of inclusive constitutional process, in which on behalf of Donbass in the negotiations will take part the representatives from DPR and LPR. And imagine what if they don't agree with Kiev and Lvov. Moreover, if you launch such a reconstruction of Ukraine, then you might find out, that Kharkov cannot agree with Kiev and Lvov, and Odessa may not agree with Kiev and Lvov. Finally, Kiev and Lvov may not agree among themselves. Not agree themselves, you know? And thus, there will be no more Ukraine in the old boundaries. And what boundaries it will be in - "It's up to Ukrainians themselves". Similarly, as Crimea returned back to Russia not because it was demanded by the Russian imperialist power, but because the residents of Crimea wanted it themselves, is that clear?

We shall not tire of repeating again and again, until this is understood by the most ardent patriots, Transnistria throughout its entire history has held talks with Moldova (and does it to this day). During negotiations a full statehood was built in Transnistria (with its own army, economy and everything else), and as a state Transnistria has been more successful than Moldova. Why can't DPR and LPR follow the same path?

Crimea was not an exception

Lavrov: ...After a meeting in Moscow with French President Francois Hollande on December 6, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin during a meeting with media representatives reiterated what he said repeatedly: "Russia supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine."

Question: Definitely?

Lavrov: Definitely.

Question: Even in the regions of the South-East? And there will be no second Crimea?

Lavrov: Crimea is unique, one of a kind. It is a Russian land.

Question: Was it an exception?

Lavrov: It was no exception, it was the will of the people. From the Russian point of view, Ukraine, as we recognize it today is territorially integral, and must be maintained in this form.

We would not even comment on this: "It's up to the Ukrainians" (c).


Question: Several years ago, Russia and France signed a contract on delivery of "Mistral"...

Lavrov: I must interrupt you. I will not comment on this issue. This is a question of a signed current contract and the dignity of the French nation.

Question: Do you think that France will meet its obligations?

Lavrov: I have no more comments.

Europe in this story with Ukraine is losing its face. And this is worth more than money.

The European Union

Lavrov: ...Unfortunately, for several years we have overestimated the independence of the European Union and even some large European countries. This is geopolitics. Some believe that the sanctions - is some kind of weakness or a sign of irritation, which is not the best quality of a politician. I can assure you that Russia will not only survive, but will become stronger after this. Throughout our history, we were in much more complicated situations, and each time emerged from these troubles much stronger. This will definitely happen.


Sanctions - are a sign of annoyance, and not a serious policy tool. About the latest sanctions package, the adoption of which was voted by the European Union in September, it was announced the following day after the signing of the Minsk Protocol. This is a very interesting logic of stimulation of a political process. The next morning after achieving tremendous progress, which was welcomed by all - the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy said that a new package of sanctions was introduced against Russia. If this is the choice of Europe and its reaction to something positive, then I can say once again that we too overestimated the independence of Europe in the field of foreign policy.

This is a super important part of the interview. If we move away from the agenda of the day, and to analyze Lavrov's words strategically, then how can we interpret the statement "we have overestimated the independence of the European Union and even some separate large European countries", made in the context of the fact that the USSR was destroyed under the guise of Russia's entry into Europe, and all the subsequent twenty years, Russia was prepped for entering Europe? And in 2014 it is fully revealed that Europe is not sovereign and there will be no entry.

This is a fundamental and fatal call, the answer to which can only be a return to itself - the Russian Messianic Empire.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Birds in central Michigan are dying due to decades-old DDT pollution

© Teri Kniffen's video

American robin found in Kniffen's neighbor's yard in 2014. Volunteers collect the birds to have them tested for neurotoxicity.

All this week we're bringing you stories about the chemical company responsible for the PBB tragedy in Michigan. Michigan Chemical accidentally contaminated the state's food supply in the 1970s, but the legacy of that company is still very much with us today.

Michigan Chemical - which later became Velsicol Chemical - made more than just PBB, and it left these toxic chemicals behind in St. Louis, Michigan.

One woman insists something is wrong with the birds

Teri Kniffen and her family moved to St. Louis in 1994. She had heard about Velsicol Chemical and the PBB tragedy in Michigan, but when they bought their house, they didn't realize they were moving right next to where the old plant site was buried.

In 2001, she started noticing dying robins in her yard.

"When I'd go out in the backyard, and get near them, they wouldn't move," says Kniffen. "They just would stagger around the yard, and they'd end up dying."

Kniffen said she would find around 10 to 12 dead birds a year - mostly American robins. She said she tried to get officials from the MDEQ and the EPA to test the birds, but they mostly ignored her. An MDEQ official told her to collect the dead birds in her freezer, but she says by the time they came to collect them four years later, she was told the birds could not be tested.

So two years ago, Kniffen had the birds tested herself at MSU, and the birds tested positive for acute DDT and DDE poisoning.

Kniffen videotaped the birds as well. Here's what she and her neighbors would see (this video might be disturbing for some viewers):

[embedded content]

Velsicol Chemical leaves its mess behind

For more than 40 years until it closed in 1978, Velsicol Chemical made all kinds of chemicals - including DDT. The company is long gone. The story is a familiar one. It was bought out, and then the company that bought it, Fruit of the Loom, went bankrupt.

So the old company ceased to exist, but its chemicals are still here in this small town in the center of the Lower Peninsula.

Air deposition is one way people believe the chemicals spread. People who lived in St. Louis at the time the plant was in operation often describe a white dust that would settle on the neighborhood at times. That could be one way the chemicals from the plant got into the ground. Others tell stories of the company offering free fill dirt to neighbors.

Birds tell a story of what's underground

Matt Zwiernik is a wildlife toxicologist at Michigan State University. He tested the two birds Kniffen first brought to MSU in 2012. Then in 2013, his team studied the birds and their nests in and around St. Louis.

All the adult birds they collected in a nine-block area around the old chemical plant had also been poisoned.

"These concentrations from my literature search are the greatest ever reported in wild birds," says Zwiernik. "When they arrive in May and by June they're dying of convulsions, and they've got ten times the concentration in their brain that causes death in laboratory animals, you can assume that DDT caused it."

More interesting, Zwiernik notes, are their findings on the birds' nests. They monitored 60 nests in the nearby neighborhood, and downstream from the chemical plant.

The team found low hatchling success rates, meaning the robins had a hard time reproducing in these areas.

Zwiernik recently presented his findings at a conference. He said people were shocked that this was happening in 2014.

"I was shocked as well. I've been doing this for 15 years now.... Many, many studies over seven years, trying to find subtle differences ... and in this one it really just hits you over your head. You don't need a giant study design to get your answer. You can test your hypothesis in one year with 29 samples. It's nothing like I've seen in my career."

© Teri Kniffen

An ailing robin fledging in Teri Kniffen's yard in St. Louis, Michigan in June of 2013. Some of the highest levels of DDT ever recorded in bird livers and brains were found in this neighborhood.

Cleanup was planned, but bird study helped score funding

Zwiernik's study was paid for by a community group pushing for more cleanup in St. Louis. The Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force gave Zwiernik $15,000 for his study.

The EPA and the state have known about the nasty chemicals in the neighborhood since around 2006. Some areas had been fenced off because the DDT levels were unsafe for people.

And before MSU's bird study, officials had decided that the yards in the nine-block area should be cleaned.

But federal Superfund money is tight. What money there is goes to the worst sites first. News of the dying robins helped build the case that this place needed the money.

The EPA is cleaning up the yards now. It will likely spend around $12 million to excavate and replace soil in the affected areas.

Fifty-two homes had their soil excavated and replaced this year. The EPA hopes to complete another 45 homes next year.

The EPA believes, through its soil testing, that most of the contamination sits in this nine-block area, but it's beginning to test the soil outside of this neighborhood.

Searching for the boundary of pollution in St. Louis

In the meantime, volunteers in the community continue to collect the birds they find. The 2013 study found a couple of robins outside the nine-block area that had elevated levels of DDT. Those birds were collected by a mailman in St. Louis.

Zwiernik doesn't have the funding to continue his study, so the birds that are collected now are tested by the state.

Last July, I went out with Terry Jelenek to collect a dead robin.

Terry Jelenek is one of the volunteers who collects dead robins in St. Louis. The community wants to know whether birds outside the nine-block area they know about are being affected by DDT. Terry Jelenek is one of the volunteers who collects dead robins in St. Louis. The community wants to know whether birds outside the nine-block area they know about are being affected by DDT.

The robin that he was collecting was young, a fledgling. It sat outside the nine-block area, but less than a mile from the old chemical plant.

Jelenek put the bird in a sterilized bottle, and recorded all kinds of data. He and other volunteers were trained by Zwiernik in how to collect the samples.

Then, the bird goes in a freezer so it can later be tested. In 2014, three birds were collected. One inside the nine-block area likely died of neurotoxicity from DDT. One was too decayed to do analysis on, and the one collected in the photo showed signs of DDT exposure, but likely did not die from the chemical.

"This study has been great for St. Louis, cleaning it up," says Jelenek.

The EPA and the state will be here for a long time trying to clean things up, and the robins arriving in the spring could help pinpoint where the problems are.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog