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Sunday, 21 December 2014

No excuses: We can't 'cover our eyes' to CIA abuses anymore

Seven years ago, I interviewed Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who had been held by the United States in prisons in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay - without charge - for almost three years. His words described brutal torture inflicted by his American captors. But his tone was eerily matter-of-fact, delivered without apparent pain or anger. As I interviewed other former prisoners, it was the same - calm descriptions of horrific abuse. When I remarked on this to one of their attorneys, he told me what I should have figured out myself - this was the only way any of these men could repeatedly describe their torture and also protect their fragile sanity.

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That revelation led to one of the most difficult decisions I made as a documentary filmmaker - to include dramatizations of the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," from "stress positions," to "sleep deprivation" and "solitary confinement," even water boarding in Torturing Democracy. Those scenes are the scenes that make you want to cover your eyes.

But now, with the damning conclusions of the Executive Summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation, clearly and repeatedly describing torture, none of us can any longer cover our eyes.

Five days ago, Moazzam Begg was asked if he was surprised at the revelations in the Senate's report. "Every torture technique they described, we've been talking about till we were blue in the face," he said of himself and other former prisoners. "The only thing that surprised me was that they released it."

Investigative journalists, authors, documentary filmmakers - along with many former officials, military officers and interrogators - have been telling versions of what happened in the torture chambers dotted across the globe until they, too, were "blue in the face." Now, from a Senate investigation that relies almost entirely on the CIA's own internal documents - what CIA officers themselves were reporting at the time - we know that the abuses were far more shocking, systematic and widespread than we had reported.

We knew that in the chaotic days after 9/11, the CIA - ordered by President Bush to capture or kill Al Qaeda operatives - had hired outside contractors. We learned that their names were James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. We knew they had interrogated Abu Zubaydah, considered the first major Al Qaeda prisoner, at a secret CIA black site in Thailand. We did not know that the two, who had no experience in interrogation, would become the prime advocates of harsh methods, fueled with contracts that essentially provided financial incentives to repeatedly use the most brutal techniques. By the time President Obama shut the program down in 2009, Mitchell and Jessen had been paid an astonishing $81 million.

We knew that the harsh interrogation tactics were lifted from those Mitchell and Jessen used as trainers in the military's secret Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) program to prepare Americans at risk of capture by torture regimes. In , Richard Armitage, former deputy Secretary of State and Colonel Stuart Couch, both SERE trainees as Marines, recognized the "enhanced interrogation techniques" for what they were: torture. "I'm ashamed that we're even having this conversation," Armitage told me.

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But the Senate Intelligence Committee did not investigate, and so did not include in its report, how the reverse-engineered SERE methods quickly migrated from the CIA's secret prisons first to Guantanamo and on to Iraq. In September 2002, lawyers from the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA arrived at the Guantanamo prison camp, focused on one "high value" detainee there. Nine days later, the Gitmo commander requested the authority to use the CIA's harsh interrogations. In December, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signed off on the SERE-based torture tactics.

Eight months later, in August of 2003, the Guantanamo commander in charge of interrogations traveled to Iraq to carry out orders to "gitmo-ize" the interrogations there. Eight days after his visit, "enhanced interrogation techniques" were authorized for Iraq. And eight months after that, the first shocking photos from Abu Ghraib were leaked.

Where did the orders originate? Torture was not only the work of a rogue agency. Vice President Dick Cheney was a powerful sponsor of brutal interrogations. The Department of Justice memos that provided legal cover for torture were demanded by the CIA in the face of unrelenting White House pressure to produce intelligence on the "next attack." The agency wore those legal opinions as its "golden shield" against prosecution.

The torture chambers operated in the dark while Washington gave them cover. Torture was not the work of a few "bad apples" - in the CIA or the military - but the result of official policy set at the government's highest levels.

Torturing Democracy,

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

We're the bloodthirsty warmongers, not 'evil' Putin

Vladimir putin

© RIA Novosti Alexey Druzhinin

This is a time of year for memories, and the ones that keep bothering me are from my childhood, which seemed at the time to be wholly happy and untroubled.

Yet all the adults in my life still dwelt in the shadow of recent war. This was not the glamorous, exciting side of war, but the miserable, fearful and hungry aspect.

My mother, even in middle-class suburban prosperity, couldn't throw away an eggshell without running her finger round it to get out the last of the white. No butcher dared twice to try to cheat her on the weights.

Haunted all her life by rationing, she would habitually break a chocolate bar into its smallest pieces. She had also been bombed from the air in Liverpool, and had developed a fatalism to cope with the nightly danger of being blown to pieces, shocking to me then and since.

I am now beset by these ingrained memories of shortage and danger because I seem surrounded by people who think that war might be fun. This seems to happen when wartime generations are pushed aside by their children, who need to learn the truth all over again.

It seemed fairly clear to me from her experiences that war had in fact been a miserable affair of fear, hunger, threadbare darned clothes, broken windows and insolent officials. And that was a victory, more or less, though my father (who fought in it) was never sure of that.

Now I seem surrounded by people who actively want a war with Russia, a war we all might lose. They seem to believe that we are living in a real life Lord Of The Rings, in which Moscow is Mordor and Vladimir Putin is Sauron. Some humorous artists in Moscow, who have noticed this, have actually tried to set up a giant Eye of Sauron on a Moscow tower.

We think we are the heroes, setting out with brave hearts to confront the Dark Lord, and free the saintly Ukrainians from his wicked grasp.

This is all the most utter garbage. Since 1989, Moscow, the supposed aggressor, has - without fighting or losing a war - peacefully ceded control over roughly 180 million people, and roughly 700,000 square miles of valuable territory.

The EU (and its military wing, NATO) have in the same period gained control over more than 120 million of those people, and almost 400,000 of those square miles.

Until a year ago, Ukraine remained non-aligned between the two great European powers. But the EU wanted its land, its 48 million people (such a reservoir of cheap labour!) its Black Sea coast, its coal and its wheat.

So first, it spent £300 million (some of it yours) on anti-Russian 'civil society' groups in Ukraine.

Then EU and NATO politicians broke all the rules of diplomacy and descended on Kiev to take sides with demonstrators who demanded that Ukraine align itself with the EU.

Imagine how you'd feel if Russian politicians had appeared in Edinburgh in September urging the Scots to vote for independence, or if Russian money had been used to fund pro-independence organisations.

Then a violent crowd (20 police officers died at its hands, according to the UN) drove the elected president from office, in violation of the Ukrainian constitution.

During all this process, Ukraine remained what it had been from the start - horrendously corrupt and dominated by shady oligarchs, pretty much like Russia.

If you didn't want to take sides in this mess, I wouldn't at all blame you. But most people seem to be doing so.

There seems to be a genuine appetite for confrontation in Washington, Brussels, London... and Saudi Arabia.

There is a complacent joy abroad about the collapse of the rouble, brought about by the mysterious fall in the world's oil price.

It's odd to gloat about this strange development, which is also destroying jobs and business in this country. Why are the Gulf oil states not acting - as they easily could and normally would - to prop up the price of the product that makes them rich?

I do not know, but there's no doubt that Mr Putin's Russia has been a major obstacle to the Gulf states' desire to destroy the Assad government in Syria, and that the USA and Britain have (for reasons I long to know) taken the Gulf's side in this.

But do we have any idea what we are doing? Ordinary Russians are pretty stoical and have endured horrors unimaginable to most of us, including a currency collapse in 1998 that ruined millions. But until this week they had some hope.

If anyone really is trying to punish the Russian people for being patriotic, by debauching the rouble, I cannot imagine anything more irresponsible. It was the destruction of the German mark in 1922, and the wipeout of the middle class that resulted, which led directly to Hitler.

Stupid, ill-informed people nowadays like to compare Mr Putin with Hitler. I warn them and you that, if we succeed in overthrowing Mr Putin by unleashing hyper-inflation in Russia, we may find out what a Russian Hitler is really like. And that a war in Europe is anything but fun.

So, as it's almost Christmas, let us sing with some attention that bleakest and yet loveliest of carols, , stressing the lines that run 'Man at war with man hears not the love song which they bring. Oh, hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing'.

Or gloat at your peril over the scenes of panic in Moscow.

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

The war on drugs just got even more vile: Police to begin inspecting your poop, seriously

Toilet Spying

© The Free Thought Project

As the wasteful, immoral war on drugs continues in police states around the world, authorities are always looking for ways to track the use of "illicit" drugs. It's the intelligence aspect of their war, and some of the methods literally reek. Introducing "sewage epidemiology," coming soon to a community near you.

Sewage epidemiology is a rapidly expanding field that can provide information on illicit drug usage in communities, based on the measured concentrations in samples from wastewater treatment plants.

According to the American Chemical Society's report:

The war on drugs could get a boost with a new method that analyzes sewage to track levels of illicit drug use in local communities in real time. The new study, a first-of-its-kind in the U.S., was published in the ACS journal and could help law enforcement identify new drug hot spots and monitor whether anti-drug measures are working.

The thought of authorities slogging through the sludge may be comical, but it represents another example of big brother using our money to monitor our behavior. Drug consumption is a non-violent act upon oneself. The drug trade is made violent in a black market under government prohibition.

What is the rationale behind attempts at drug eradication and criminalization? It provides a means for government to assert power; it enriches the prison industry and the jackboot industry and politicians. Take these away and there is no logic to the war on drugs.

Supply is consistently available to meet demand, despite massive amounts of money and effort directed at eradicating supply and criminalizing demand.

Instead of learning from this history, however, the state continues its meaningless pursuit by turning to things such as sewage epidemiology. While some European countries put this technology to good use by monitoring sewage for environmental toxins, in the U.S. it will be used to repress its citizens.

Most information on drug use is gathered by the state through surveys, crime statistics, and drug seizures. Analyzing our bodily waste will "help law enforcement identify new drug hot spots."

After all, they have to find reasons to use all that fancy new military gear.

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

Scotish orphans used in 'military experiments'

Lennox Castle Hospital

© The Express, UK

Lennox Castle Hospital is one of four Scottish institutions alleged to have been involved.

The allegations centre on at least four institutions where thousands of children are said to have been experimented upon in conditions described as "like something out of Auschwitz".

It is alleged that Porton Down, the top secret military facility in Wiltshire, was involved in trialling drugs for use in the Cold War on youngsters who were regarded as "feeble-minded".

One survivor told this newspaper he has obtained written and video evidence that he will pass to the public inquiry into historical abuse of children in care when it begins next year.

The man, now in his 50s, has been advised by lawyers to conceal his identity for his own safety until his full submission can be lodged at the inquiry announced by Scottish Education Secretary Angela Constance.

However, he was willing to divulge some of his intended testimony about the treatment he and others suffered.

He said: "Six and seven year olds were tied to racks and given electric shocks.

"I was incarcerated with orderlies armed with rubber coshes.

"We were imprisoned, experimented upon, lobotomies, you name it, they did it.

"I was there, I saw it with my own eyes.

"I was classed as a misfit, a mental oddity, made a ward of court.

"My mother was killed and I became an orphan, so they took it upon themselves to have me experimented upon."

Lennox Castle Hospital, near Lennoxtown, East Dunbartonshire, is one of four Scottish institutions alleged to have been involved.

The witness believes there may have been as many as 3,500 children who were involved in the Porton Down testing programme over the years.

He said: "They were using orphans to experiment with drugs for the Cold War.

"The drug programme ran from 1948 to 1982.

"I believe this happened throughout the UK but I'm referring to Scotland.

"I have this evidence, on paper and on film, and I will hand it to the public inquiry.

"It was like something out of Auschwitz and people will be full of revulsion when they learn the state allowed this to happen."

Lennox Castle Hospital, which closed in 2002 and is now the site of Celtic FC's training ground, was home to children and adults with learning difficulties or conditions such as Down's syndrome, as well as truants, unmarried mothers and wayward teenagers.

Some patients were sent there as children, often for the most trivial reasons, and ended up spending decades locked up.

Conditions improved after a series of damning reports and investigations, including a 1986 World in Action TV documentary which led to questions in the House of Commons.

Last night, Professor Ulf Schmidt of the University of Kent, Britain's leading expert on human experimentation at Porton Down, said he had never heard of a drug trial programme involving orphans.

He added: "That is not to say these experiments didn't happen, but I would be very cautious in dealing with these allegations.

"Some stories have appeared and reappeared over the past 50 years, including a similar one about drug testing and euthanasia involving elderly people that was eventually shown to be false."

Six years ago hundreds of veterans who 'volunteered' to take part in tests at Porton Down were offered £3million in compensation.

They were exposed to nerve agents, such as sarin gas, and hallucinogens, such as LSD.

In the most infamous case, from 1953, Ronald Maddison took part in a trial of what he believed was a cold remedy, but died within an hour of having sarin dabbed on his arm.

Other Porton Down experiments included spraying bacteria over the south coast of England and dropping cancer-causing particles from planes.

And Gruinard Island in Wester Ross had to be sealed off for almost 50 years after it was contaminated with anthrax during the Second World War.

Porton Down is the home of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, an agency of the Ministry of Defence.

A spokeswoman said: "We are not aware of any tests involving children at Portown Down and have seen absolutely no evidence to back up these claims."

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

Four-year old Virginia preschooler handcuffed, shackled, taken to sheriff's office for misbehaving


Officials at a Virginia school turned an allegedly misbehaving 4-year-old preschooler over to law enforcement, where he was put in handcuffs and shackles and ordered to talk to jail inmates, according to a legal group intervening in the case.

The unnamed student, who was enrolled in the pre-kindergarten program at Nathanael Greene Primary School, in Stanardsville, Virginia, was removed from the classroom Oct. 16 after allegedly "becoming agitated and throwing several items onto the floor."

"That such extreme restraints would even be contemplated in a case such as this points to a failure by those in leadership to provide the proper guidance to school personnel in what forms of restraint and force are appropriate when dealing with students, especially the youngest and most ," said a letter sent this week to school district officials by John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, which was asked by the mother to intervene.

"It is imperative that Green County Public Schools take steps to assure [the student's mother] and the rest of the community of parents and concerned citizens that what happened to [the student] will not happen again to him or other students of similar age," Whitehead said.

The letter said policies should make it clear that handcuffing, shackling and other "excessive restraint techniques are never appropriate when dealing with children of tender years."

"Under the circumstances, Green County Public Schools should also rescind the suspension imposed upon [the student] and remove any indication of the incident from [the student's] records. The trauma [the student] has endured, which continues to cause him nightmares and may forever taint his experience and thoughts about school, should not be compounded by a blemish on his record."

Whitehead asked for a response to the letter by Dec. 30.

School officials declined to respond to a message left by WND requesting comment.

When the conflict with the student arose Oct. 16, his mother was called, and she informed the school she was on her way to the school.

However, school personnel then called a Greene County deputy sheriff to confront the preschooler, which agitated the student further.

"The officer escalated the situation by treating the 4-year-old as if he were being arrested: handcuffing [the student] and transporting him in a police car to a Greene County sheriff's office," the letter said.

There, the officer "forced [the 4-year-old] to speak with persons who had been arrested in an apparent attempt to 'scare straight' the preschooler," the letter said.

"No child, particularly children of tender years who are as emotionally fragile as [the student] should have to endure the shock and fright that accompanies handcuffing and shackling," the letter said. "These extreme forms of restraint are meant to be used only in those instances where law enforcement officers would be endangered by their proximity to unencumbered persons who pose a risk of violence."

The letter noted that not only has a psychologist confirmed the incident could have "long-term consequences," the school's actions also may have been a violation of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable seizures.

"It is self-evident that handcuffing and shackling a four-year-old by a law enforcement officer is excessive, unwarranted and unnecessarily traumatizing," the letter said.

"That it was a sheriff's deputy and not a public school official who handcuffed and shackled this 4-year-old does not detract from the fact that this mother entrusted her son to the care of school officials, trusting them to care for him as she would, with compassion, understanding and patience," said Whitehead, author of "A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State."

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

WikiLeaks releases classified CIA agents tips on infiltrating EU, Schengen

© Sputnik/ Iliya Pitalev

The US Central Intelligence Agency has issued advice for its agents on how to infiltrate international passport control systems, including in the European Union and the Schengen area, according to two previously undisclosed documents published by WikiLeaks on Sunday.

"The European Union's Schengen biometric-based border-management systems pose a minimal identity threat to US operational travellers because their primary focus is illegal immigration and criminal activities, not counter-intelligence," reads one of the documents, dated January 2012.

The CIA advice booklet, entitled "Schengen Overview", gives detailed information on customs procedures in the Europe and threats they pose to agents using false documents. While biometric systems are currently not used for people with US documents, this could possibly change in 2015, increasing the "identity threat level", according to the CIA.

The second document, dated September 21, 2011, gives advice on how to pass airports screenings across the world.

The manual, titled "Surviving Secondary", notes that airport watch lists may include names of confirmed or suspected intelligence agents and lists a number of signs that could disclose one's identity, such as apparent nervousness and inability to speak the language of the passport-issuing country.

The document also lists special security procedures in a number of international airports and underlines that a "consistent, well-rehearsed, and plausible cover is important for avoiding secondary selection and critical for surviving it."

According to the manual, accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn could help make the false identity more plausible.

In a highlighted box entitled "The Importance of Maintaining Cover - No Matter What", the CIA describes a situation where an intelligence officer was selected for secondary screening in a EU country, possibly due to "overly casual dress inconsistent with being a diplomatic-passport".

When the CIA officer's bag screened positive for traces of explosives, he presented a cover story on having engaged in counter-terrorism training in Washington DC. Even though local security officials initially concluded that the agent had trained in a terrorist camp, he "consistently maintained" his cover story and was eventually allowed to proceed with his travels.

The publication of the two travel advice documents is the second release within the WikilLeak's so-called CIA Series, which is set to continue next year.

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

Introducing Alfreda Bikowsky: Senior officer at the CIA and otherwise known as "The unidentified Queen of torture"

© Sergey Petrov / shutterstock

NBC News yesterday called her a "key apologist" for the CIA's torture program. A follow-up article dubbed her "The Unidentified Queen of Torture" and in part "the model for the lead character in 'Zero Dark Thirty.'" Yet in both articles she was anonymous.

The person described by both NBC and is senior CIA officer Alfreda Frances Bikowsky. Multiple news outlets have reported that as the result of a long string of significant errors and malfeasance, her competence and integrity are doubted - even by some within the agency.

is naming Bikowsky over CIA objections because of her key role in misleading Congress about the agency's use of torture, and her active participation in the torture program (including playing a direct part in the torture of at least one innocent detainee). Moreover, Bikowsky has already been publicly identified by news organizations as the CIA officer responsible for many of these acts.

The executive summary of the torture report released by the Senate last week provides abundant documentation that the CIA repeatedly and deliberately misled Congress about multiple aspects of its interrogation program. Yesterday, reported that one senior CIA officer in particular was responsible for many of those false claims, describing her as "a top al Qaeda expert who remains in a senior position at the CIA."

NBC, while withholding her identity, noted that the same unnamed officer "also participated in 'enhanced interrogations' of self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, witnessed the waterboarding of terror suspect Abu Zubaydah and ordered the detention of a suspected terrorist who turned out to be unconnected to al Qaeda, according to the report."

's Jane Mayer, writing yesterday about the NBC article, added that the officer "is still in a position of high authority over counterterrorism at the C.I.A." This officer, Mayer noted, is the same one who "dropped the ball when the C.I.A. was given information that might very well have prevented the 9/11 attacks; she gleefully participated in torture sessions afterward; she misinterpreted intelligence in such a way that it sent the C.I.A. on an absurd chase for Al Qaeda sleeper cells in Montana. And then she falsely told congressional overseers that the torture worked." Mayer also wrote that the officer is "the same woman" identified in the Senate report who oversaw "the months-long rendition and gruesome interrogation of another detainee whose detention was a case of mistaken identity."

Both news outlets withheld the name of this CIA officer even though her identity is widely known among journalists, and her name has been used by various media outlets in connection with her work at the CIA. Both articles cited requests by the CIA not to identify her, even though they provided details making her identity clear.

In fact, earlier this year, identified Bikowsky by name, describing her as a CIA analyst "who was tied to a critical intelligence-sharing failure before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the botched 2003 'rendition' of an innocent German citizen thought to be an al-Qaeda operative." That report led to both McClatchy and independent journalist Marcy Wheeler raising questions about the propriety of Bikowsky's former personal lawyer, Robert Litt, playing a key role in his current capacity as a top government lawyer in deciding which parts of the torture report should be released.

The McClatchy article identified Bikowsky by name as the officer who "played a central role in the bungled rendition of Khaled el-Masri. El-Masri, who was revealed to be innocent, claimed to have been tortured by the agency." El-Masri, a German citizen who was kidnapped from Macedonia and tortured by the CIA in Afghanistan, was released in 2003 after it was revealed he was not involved in al Qaeda.

Back in 2011, John Cook, the outgoing editor of The Intercept, wrote an article at Gawker, based on the reporting of Ray Nowosielski and John Duffy, naming Bikowsky and pointing to extensive evidence showing that she "has a long (if pseudonymous) history of being associated with some of the agency's most disastrous boondoggles," including a key role in the CIA's pre-9/11 failure to notify the FBI that two known al Qaeda operatives had entered the country.

Earlier that year, the Associated Press reported that a "hard-charging CIA analyst [who] had pushed the agency into one of the biggest diplomatic embarrassments of the U.S. war on terrorism" (the rendering for torture of the innocent El-Masri) was repeatedly promoted. Despite internal recommendations that she be punished, the AP reported that she instead "has risen to one of the premier jobs in the CIA's Counterterrorism Center."

The article named her as "Frances," explaining that the AP "agreed to the CIA's request to refer to Frances by her middle name because her first is unusual."

Bikowsky's name, and her long string of controversial actions, have become such an open secret that she even has her own lengthy, detailed Wikipedia page. The entry describes her as a "career Central Intelligence Agency officer who has headed . . . the Global Jihad unit."

In the months leading up to the release of the torture report, the CIA and the White House fought to prevent the Senate even from assigning pseudonyms to the CIA officers whose actions are chronicled in the report. The Senate ultimately capitulated, making it difficult to follow any coherent narrative about what these officers did.

As Mayer wrote in yesterday's article:

Readers can speculate on how the pieces fit together, and who the personalities behind this program are. But without even pseudonyms, it is exceedingly hard to connect the dots. . . . [W]ithout names, or even pseudonyms, it is almost impossible to piece together the puzzle, or hold anyone in the American government accountable. Evidently, that is exactly what the C.I.A. was fighting for during its eight-month-long redaction process, behind all those closed doors.

Naming Bikowsky allows people to piece together these puzzles and hold American officials accountable. The CIA's arguments for suppression of her name are vague and unpersuasive, alluding generally to the possibility that she could be the target of retaliation.

The CIA's arguments focus on an undefined threat to her safety. "We would strongly object to attaching anyone's name given the current environment," a CIA spokesperson, Ryan Trapani, told in an email. In a follow-up voicemail he added: "There are crazy people in this world and we are trying to mitigate those threats."

However, beyond Bikowsky, a number of CIA officials who oversaw and implemented the program have already been publicly identified - indeed, many of the key architects of the program, such as Jose Rodriguez, are frequent guests on news programs.

Trapani also argued that the Senate report is "based only upon one side's perspective on this story" and that an article about Bikowsky "doesn't require naming a person who's never had a chance to rebut what's been said about them." When asked for the CIA's rebuttal - or Bikowsky's - to the critical portrayal of her in the Senate report, Trapani declined to offer one. He noted that CIA Director John Brennan had disputed the report's contention that the agency had misrepresented the value of the interrogation program.

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

Oswald and Atta: Erratic, protected, seeking attention -- CIA patsies

Atta and Oswald: CIA suckers.

Graeme MacQueen's new book, The 2001 Anthrax Deception , reveals stunning links between the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax attacks that immediately followed. The book also reviews some of the interesting actions taken by alleged hijacker leader, Mohamed Atta, in the years preceding 9/11. These actions suggest that Atta was trying to leave the people he encountered with memories that would support the official myth. In the few years before JFK's assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald engaged in similar attention-seeking actions. Considering this leads to the discovery that Oswald and Atta had a lot in common.

The legend of Mohamed Atta describes a man who seemed to be everywhere at once. In just the two years before 9/11, Atta reportedly lived and/or plotted in Germany, The Netherlands, The Philippines, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan (via Turkey and Pakistan), Oklahoma, Las Vegas, Spain, and numerous locations in Florida. Oswald also traveled extensively in the years before the JFK assassination - back and forth from California to Japan, to New Orleans, Dallas, and Fort Worth, to Mexico City, and to Minsk and Moscow.

Atta was involved in many notable events in a short period before 9/11. Among other things, he annoyed airport employees, was bitten by a dog , consumed alcohol and cocaine, lived with an exotic dancer , and killed a cat and her litter of kittens. He got pulled over for driving without a license, got drunk and swore at a waiter, and abandoned a plane on the runway . In some of these cases Atta interacted with police and the risk for police interactions was there in almost every case.

Some of Atta's reported actions suggest that he was trying to leave clues. One such incident, occurring around April of 2000, involved his attempt to seek a U.S. government loan to help him purchase and modify a crop dusting plane for large-scale chemical use. In his one-hour encounter with Johnell Bryant, a federal employee from whom he was seeking the loan, Atta talked about security at the World Trade Center and buildings in Washington. He went on to talk about his connection to Al Qaeda and his admiration for Osama bin Laden. The most vivid memory Bryant had of Atta was his extremely dilated pupils - a symptom of drug abuse.

In his interaction with Bryant, Atta made a big deal about a picture of Washington D.C. in her office. Bryant said that Atta acted like he wanted that picture very badly. Johnell said that Atta's "emotions kept going up and down, up and down" and he became agitated when she would not sell him the picture or give him the $650,000 loan to buy the plane and equip it with the large chemical tank. To emphasize his displeasure and heighten the experience, Atta suggested that he might cut her throat. Those are certainly not the actions of someone trying to keep a highly secret terrorist plot from being discovered.

Atta's antics continued until the day before 9/11, when he made an inexplicable last-minute trip to Portland, Maine, leaving with only 75 minutes to catch the flight that he allegedly had carefully planned to hijack in Boston. He conveniently left the most incriminating evidence possible in his luggage.

Like Atta, Lee Harvey Oswald was busy making himself visible before he allegedly assassinated the President of the United States. His activities in that regard are described well in James Douglass' book, JFK and the Unspeakable . In fact, reports about Oswald suggest that, like Atta, he was too busy to have been only one person. Whoever it was, the person posing as Oswald made a number of attempts to draw attention his way.

Oswald's strange behavior in the summer of 1963 provided evidence that he was trying to be noticed. In New Orleans, he engaged in pro-Castro activities by pretending to be the head of the local chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee - but he was its only member. This appears to have been a superficial attempt to support what would become the official line that communists were behind the JFK assassination.

Oswald went to Mexico City in the fall of 1963. During this visit he allegedly made phone calls and visits to both the Cuban and Soviet embassies. He is also reported to have written a letter to a known KGB agent who specialized in assassinations. The CIA monitored such communications closely and it is interesting to consider that 9/11 investigation leader Porter Goss was a CIA operative in Mexico City that same year. In any case, whether true or not, Oswald's reported actions there indicate that he was working to provide a more recent history for himself as a communist operative or supporter.

Another such incident occurred in the last week of September 1963, when strangers visited Silvia Odio, a 26-year-old Cuban immigrant, in her Dallas apartment. They told Silvia that they were members of an anti-Castro group that her parents were involved in. Sylvia was suspicious, but the visitors said they had come to introduce her to an American named Leon Oswald, who accompanied them. A couple of days later, Sylvia got a phone call from one of them who asked, "What do you think of the American? He's great but kinda nuts. He told us we don't have any guts, you Cubans, because President Kennedy should have been assassinated right after the Bay of Pigs."

Sylvia was disturbed by the visit and the call, and she wrote to her father in prison who wrote back that he knew none of the visitors. When Sylvia heard of President Kennedy's assassination on the radio - before any mention of Oswald had been made - she was convinced that "Leon Oswald" did it and she reported it to authorities. The FBI interviewed Sylvia in December 1963. Although her testimony was not included in the Warren Report, the incident was clearly meant to connect Oswald to the assassination plot.

Apart from their world travels and attempts to be noticed, Atta and Oswald had other important things in common. For one, both of them appeared to be above the law. That is, they both committed crimes and yet they were not held accountable.

There are reasons to believe that Oswald might have been subjected to CIA mind-control experiments using LSD in the late 1950s. In any case, in 1959 he defected to the Soviet Union. At the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, he reportedly told officials that he planned to give radar secrets to the Soviets. That, of course, would have been treason. Oswald lived in the Soviet Union for three years and married a young Russian woman. In June 1962, he was not only allowed to return to the United States, the U.S. government loaned him money to return , never prosecuted him, and claimed to have never even debriefed him.

Although Mohamed Atta 's pre-9/11 crimes were not so dramatic, he enjoyed the same unbelievable luck with regard to lack of prosecution or interrogation. In 1995, Atta was investigated by German authorities for drug-related offenses yet was never charged. There is evidence that Atta continued to use drugs, as was suspected of Oswald. Atta's stripper girlfriend, Amanda Keller, said that he "had massive supplies of cocaine" which he restocked whenever needed at one of the flight schools he frequented in Florida. Keller said that during the time she dated him, she saw Atta do cocaine on multiple occasions.

Atta should have also been wanted for abandoning a stalled aircraft on a busy runway at Miami International Airport, in December 2000. Although the Federal Aviation Administration threatened to investigate the matter and hold him accountable, the whole thing was mysteriously dropped .

Three months before 9/11, a warrant was issued for Atta's arrest in Florida. Having been stopped earlier by Florida police and cited for not having a driver's license, the warrant was issued because Atta failed to show up at court for the hearing. Yet not only was he not arrested, Atta spent the next few months flying all over the U.S. using his real name without being stopped or questioned. He was pulled over again in July - this time for speeding - in Delray Beach, Florida. Instead of being arrested on the outstanding warrant (supposedly still not entered in the computer system more than a month later,) Atta was simply given a warning.

If the Delray Beach police had checked his immigration status, they would have found that Atta's visa had expired - another crime. A month after that, Atta's rental car was queried by police in Broward County, Florida. The existing arrest warrant still did not generate interest, despite the fact that Atta had rented the car in his own name. When Atta bought his flight ticket for 9/11, the outstanding arrest warrant was still in effect and his visa had been expired for over two months. It turned out that violating visa regulations was common for many of the alleged hijackers, yet it never caused them problems.

People have often wondered if Oswald was a CIA employee. Whether or not that was true, or can be proven, several of Oswald's associates were CIA employees. For example, Oswald's "best friend" in Dallas, George DeMohrenschild, admitted that he was connected to the Dallas office of the CIA. Another close friend of Oswald and his wife was Ruth Paine, in whose house much of the incriminating evidence was found. Paine's sister worked for the CIA and Oswald's wife later said that Paine was sympathizing (or associated) with the CIA.

Similarly, Mohamed Atta had associations with people linked to the CIA. For example, Luai Sakra, an informant for the CIA, was reportedly in contact with Atta before 9/11. Sakra's lawyer later said that his client admitted to helping the alleged hijackers. Moreover, it is known that the CIA made efforts to recruit another of Atta's friends. This was Mamoun Darkazanli, who along with Atta was a member of the Hamburg Al-Qaeda cell.

By early 2000, Atta was under CIA surveillance. At the time, he began contacting flight schools in the United States. This included communicating with and visiting airports in Oklahoma. Those activities led Atta to the same locations as persons of 9/11 interest such as University of Oklahoma president David Boren and Stratesec CEO Wirt D. Walker, whose company provided security for facilities related to 9/11.

The man who trained Zacarias Moussaoui, the sole person convicted of crimes related to 9/11, now occupies the same airport hangar as Walker's companies did in the years before and after 9/11. Coincidentally, while Atta and Marwan Alshehhi were learning to fly at Huffmann Aviation in Venice, Florida, "A CIA front company called Air Caribe was also operating out of the very same hangar at Venice airport." The southwest Florida area near Venice, where Atta and the alleged hijackers spent so much time, was home to a long history of CIA and drug trafficking operations.

Lee Harvey Oswald and Mohamed Atta had much in common. They both traveled extensively in the time leading up to their respective crimes and both sought attention in ways that would implicate them in those crimes. They were both suspected of using illicit drugs. They both seemed to be protected by authorities when they might have been prosecuted before accomplishing their tasks, and they were both associated with CIA-linked entities. Officially the biggest difference between them is that one was part of a conspiracy and one was not, but the evidence indicates that they were both operating within wider deceptions controlled by powerful people.

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The blackmail 'reparations' continue: Germany to finance Israeli military

Your ancestors killed some of our ancestors: therefore give us weapons so we can kill other people.

Germany plans to finance part of the cost of four new corvette warships for the Israeli navy made by German firm Thyssen Krupp under a deal struck with the Jewish state in November, the government said on Monday.

Following approval by German parliament's budget committee the contract could be finalised before the end of this year, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

As part of its atonement for the Nazi Holocaust, Germany is committed to Israel's security and has often helped pay for the cost of military equipment such as submarines.

The mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday that Berlin had earmarked up to 115 million euros for the warships -- which would cost around 1 billion euros in total.

Seibert declined comment on the size of the German contribution.

Comment: The Holocaust was 70 years ago. Just as the U.S. keeps EU countries in line via blackmail, so does the Mossad. That's the only rational explanation for this ludicrous policy. It's only a matter of time before the world turns on the psychopathic nation of Israel for its gangster tactics and genocidal mentality.

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Can psychopaths' brains be 'rewired' to make them less psychopathic?

© Shutterstock

A clinical psychologist at Yale is attempting to improve the cognitive functioning of psychopaths using computer games, Vox reports.

Arielle Baskin-Sommers claims that psychopaths are not, as is commonly believed, incapable of feeling emotion - and therefore unable to empathize with their victims. They suffer, she believes, from a cognitive deficit that prevents them from focusing on more than one subject at time, such that they pay attention to a goal (stealing money) without thinking about the consequences of attaining it (hurting their victim or being incarcerated).

Baskin-Sommers tells Vox that "[t]here's an attention bottleneck that essentially has the psychopath narrow the focus of their attention on something that's their goal."

Because her computer games enhance a psychopath's ability to attend to more than one matter at a time, Baskin-Sommers believes that they will be less likely to return to jail upon their release.

The psychopaths who participated in her trials, she says, not only improved their cognitive function - they also became more normative on an entire range of psychological tests.

"That was a big step for cognitive remediation," she says. "They not only improved on the task [performed in the computer games], we're seeing generalizability of the skills that they were learning."

While her results are still preliminary, she believes that further training could have an even stronger positive effect upon a segment of the criminal population that psychology once considered a hopeless cause.

"It definitely suggests there's more work to be done in how to make these effects stronger," she says. "It might be more training, or combining with existing treatments. There are lots of exciting possibilities."

Comment: Where's a face-palm when you need one? Yes, psychopaths have a type of 'attention bottleneck' when it comes to attending to consequences, others' suffering, and anything that isn't getting them what they want. That does not mean training them to attend to various things at the same time will allow them to grow a conscience. If anything, such treatment will make them slightly smarter, able to attend to more data, which they will then use to become better at getting what they want. Psychopathy is not a 'cognitive' disorder, at least not exclusively. It is an disorder. The general emotional deficit in modern psychologists can probably be blamed for these ridiculous, dead-end theories.

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Good Samaritan in Georgia pays electricity bills of strangers

Good samaritan Georgia

A Good Samaritan in Jonesboro, Georgia decided to help the people in his small community by showing up at the electric company's officer, approaching random people, and asking if he can pay their power bills.

The Good Samaritan, known only as Steve, told CBS46 News that he wanted to give to people in person rather than donating through a charity because he thought a lot of people in his community could use financial assistance around Christmas time.

"I've had a couple of people who are so shocked - they think I'm trying to scam them - so they look over at the police officer who is sitting there. He nods his head and smiles and tells them 'it's OK,'" Steve said. "Then I've had a couple of people who still don't want to do it."

Steve says his desire to give back to others comes from losing his wife Lou right before Christmas last year.

"She's a great person, we had a lot of fun together," Steve said of his late wife. "I was in the Army, so we traveled together. We got married when I was a lieutenant, and we moved 22 times in 27 years, so we did a lot of moving."

Reports say that Steve and Lou spent 11 years in the heat of Saudi Arabia, where he was stationed, and both he and his deceased wife didn't like being cold, so he thought helping people pay to keep their heat on this winter would be a great way to honor her.

"She hated the cold as much as I did," Steve admitted. "If you can help people stay warm, that seems like a good thing, and I think she would appreciate that."

Georgia Power representative Travis Bell says that Steve's generosity has inspired others to pay it forward.

"You've got to love it," Bell said. "It's the spirit of generosity; it's contagious."

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Cannabis for kids: Medicinal marijuana could treat children with epilepsy


© Reuters / Alessandro Bianchi

Children with a severe form of epilepsy could be treated with a new drug derived from the cannabis plant. The element of the plant used is non-psychoactive, meaning patients would not receive the usual cannabis high.

The medicine, called Epidiolex, has been trialed in the US, where early studies showed promising results, reducing the frequency and severity of seizures.

Trials of the drug, which contains the compound Cannabidiol (CBD), will begin at Edinburgh University's Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre, based at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, and London's Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The tests will currently only take place upon children whose seizures cannot currently be controlled by other types of medicine, primarily those with Dravet Syndrome, an incredibly rare form of epilepsy.

epilepsy child

© Reuters / Maxim Shemetov

Some children will receive doses of Epidiolex, while others will be administered a placebo.

If the tests are successful, further trials will study the effects of the drug on children with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, which typically occurs in between one and five per 100 children with epilepsy.

There are further test centers in the US, France and Poland.

Dr Richard Chin, director of the Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre, said that a new treatment for children with rare forms of epilepsy was essential.

"Many children with serious forms of epilepsy do not respond to the medications that we currently have available," he said. "We need new means of treating these conditions so that we can give back some quality of life to these children and their families."

Dravet Syndrome frequently becomes noticeable in children under the age of one. It can cause prolonged and multiple kinds of seizure, and in extreme cases can be fatal.

The syndrome also has a severe impact on children's development in formative years.

The drug has been developed by GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company, which is also sponsoring the trial.

News of the pioneering treatment follows the passing of a federal spending measure which effectively ends the government's prohibition of medicinal cannabis in the US.

The new legislation signals a huge shift in current drug policy and global perceptions of cannabis use.

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NSA and Electronic Frontier Foundation to square off in court over internet surveillance

Electronic frontier Foundation

© Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

A digital rights group in the United States plans to argue in federal court this week that the National Security Agency's internet surveillance operations violate the US Constitution's ban against unlawful searches and seizures.

Six years after the Electronic Frontier Foundation brought suit against the NSA on behalf of a former AT&T customer, Carolyn Jewel, US District Court Judge Jeffrey White for the Northern District of California will hear an EFF attorney argue on Friday for summary judgment and attest that the intelligence agency's data collection methods breach the Constitution's Fourth Amendment clauses intended to protect private information.

Filed back in 2008, the EFF's fight against the NSA long predates the public's awareness of Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who leaked classified documents about the agency's surveillance operations in 2013 and has since been charged with espionage and theft by the US Department of Justice. The disclosures attributed to Snowden and subsequent admissions from the intelligence community have in the past year provided the EFF and others with ample fodder to plead their cases against the government, however, and on Friday, Judge White is expected to be told by the group that the operations of the NSA as they're known today are unconstitutional.

In the EFF's original 2008 complaint against AT&T, the California-based legal group alleged that the major telecommunication provider has since 2003 participated in a program with the NSA that allowed the government to receive huge swaths of communications sent over the telecom's network under the guise of national security.

"The NSA in cooperation with AT&T has installed and is operating a nationwide system of Surveillance Configurations in AT&T facilities across the country," the EFF said, citing earlier, unauthorized but pre-Snowden disclosures. "This network of Surveillance Configurations indiscriminately acquires domestic communications as well as international and foreign communications," the complaint continued, amounting to dragnet collection of communication records from AT&T databases undertaken by the NSA.

In July of this year, the EFF filed a motion for summary judgment in which its attorneys asked to rule AT&T's now decade-old activities as a violation of the Fourth Amendment because those operations are, according to the plaintiffs, absence probable cause and "fail to keep the government within constitutional bounds." Attorney Richard Wiebe, a special counsel for the EFF, plans on putting forth those arguments against a government attorney at Friday's hearing.

"Under the government's legal theory, it can copy virtually all Internet communications and then search them from top to bottom for specific 'identifiers' - all without a warrant or individualized suspicion - as long as it does so quickly using only automated processes," the EFF said in a statement on Tuesday this week. "Wiebe will argue before the court that the Fourth Amendment definitively bars this type of dragnet. As EFF presented in its motion, enough information now exists on the record for the court to rule that the government's technique represents an unconstitutional search and seizure."

According to the July motion filed by the EFF, the NSA's reach of electronic communications, such as with AT&T, constitutes "a technological surveillance system that makes it impossible for ordinary Americans not suspected of any wrongdoing to engage in a fully private online conversation, to privately read online or to privately access any online service."

"Millions of innocent Americans have their communications seized and searched as part of this dragnet even when the government is not targeting them or those with whom they communicate," EFF's attorneys wrote, adding that scooping up such communications constitutes two separate Fourth Amendment violations.

"First, the government unconstitutionally seizes plaintiffs' Internet communications. Technology at plaintiffs' Internet service provider, AT&T, automatically creates and delivers to the government a copy of plaintiffs' online activities, along with those of millions of other innocent Americans - including email, live chat, reading and interacting with websites, Internet searching, and social networking," the EFF wrote. "Second, the government unconstitutionally searches the content of much of the communications stream it has seized. The government admits that it searches the content of the online communications that it has seized if it believes there is some indication that the origin or destination of the communication is outside the United States."

"In truth, no valid warrant could authorize the government's admitted practices here. The government's targeting and minimization procedures are no substitute for the fundamental protections that the Constitution guarantees to all Americans. The ongoing dragnet seizure and search of innocent Americans' Internet activities violates the Fourth Amendment," the motion continues.

Since the first Snowden revelations appeared in June 2013, the Obama administration has been hit with an array of lawsuits concerning previously unconfirmed intelligence gathering operations, including the vacuuming of dialing records from phone companies and the dragnet surveillance of domestic data. The EFF notes that, with respect to internet surveillance, the "government claims the content searches are justified under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act and do not violate the Fourth Amendment."

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Jon Stewart: Dick Cheney, a righteous warrior or psychopath?


© Unknown

On Sunday's "Meet The Press," former Vice President Dick Cheney stubbornly - and, many would argue, illogically - defended the controversial CIA interrogation techniques that were the subject of a recent horrifying report. In part, he seemed to insist that they should not be labeled torture, despite the Senate Intelligence Committee's conclusions, because only the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States deserve that label.

Jon Stewart wasn't convinced. Okay, that's an understatement. The flabbergasted "Daily Show" host slammed a series of clips from the Cheny interview, accusing him at one point of "setting the nation's moral bar at anything incrementally better the most despicable thing that has ever been done to us," and calling his mind "the scariest place in the [redacted] universe."

The segment wrapped up with a more upbeat message from Stewart: an expression of appreciation for the fact that Cheney never became president. "I'm going to end on a note of gratitude - something I never thought that I would say," Stewart said. "George W. Bush, thank you for not dying while you were in office."

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Documentary: 'Unacceptable Levels' - The chemicals in our bodies; how they got there and what to do about it

Study after study reveals the negative health impact of the chemical concoction that we encounter daily in our foods, in our environment, and in consumer products.

is a feature-length documentary which examines the results of the chemical revolution of the 1940s through the eyes of affable filmmaker Ed Brown, a father seeking to understand the world in which he and his wife are raising their children.

To create this debut documentary, one man and his camera traveled extensively to find and interview top minds in the fields of science, advocacy, and law. Weaving their testimonies into a compelling narrative, Brown presents us with the story of how the chemical revolution brought us to where we are, and of where, if we're not vigilant, it may take us.

A diverse group of voices are offered, which should spur debate from many sectors of those who have become concerned about everything from pesticides to BPA to GMO to fluoride and any one of the other 80,000 synthetic chemicals known to have been released. Now the question is what do we do about it? The environmental movement and particularly the "sustainable" agenda is a minefield of controlled opposition, infiltrators and everything in between. First, all of us should become as informed as possible on all fronts so that we can properly tackle real solutions to a crisis that only continues to get worse as the fusion between government and corporate interests intensifies.

As stated in the film, "To be healthy requires an effort." This internationally acclaimed documentary is a step toward making that effort and reclaiming health. Please view the trailer below:

[embedded content]

Comment: The great American experiment

These studies recognize that we're all being used as human guinea pigs.

We know darn well that over 1,000 chemicals harm the brains of animals - and animals' bodies are not all that different from ours. About half of the chemicals on this list are chemicals that are in our industrial solvents, pesticides, flame retardants, and other common products.

What's our current approach? Just keep using them. Move along, everyone, until scientists can prove beyond a doubt that a specific chemical made a specific person sick.

Trying to steer clear of dangerous chemicals can drive you crazy. Just try to discover which products in your life contain chemicals that are toxic to you or your kids, and how you can find non-toxic replacements for them. It's hard not to grow exasperated and give up.

And as a society, we should theoretically have more control over the process of identifying and banning toxic chemicals. But the federal law that regulates them, theToxic Substances Control Act of 1976, has no teeth.

Corporations don't even have to test their products for toxicity before putting them on the market. And the government has a very limited ability to prevent toxic chemicals from being sold.

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Animals and insects can predict natural disasters and diseases

golden wing warbler predict disaster

Anecdotal evidence has long suggested that certain animals can predict natural disasters, detect disease and more, and now science is proving many of these stories to be correct.

Close observation of such animals could even help people to plan well in advance of coming problems, suggests a new paper in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology.

Henry Streby of the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues discovered that golden-winged warblers take off from their expected locations more than 24 hours before storms hit. In this case, the storm in question produced tornadoes that killed at least 35 people.

"The most curious finding is that the birds left long before the storm arrived," said Streby. "At the same time that meteorologists on The Weather Channel were telling us this storm was headed in our direction, the birds were apparently already packing their bags and evacuating the area."

Dogs can sniff out prostate cancer with 98 percent accuracy, found a study earlier this year that was presented at the 109th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association.

Dogs have about 200 million olfactory cells in their noses, versus only 5 million in the human nose. Their keen sense of smell helps to explain the cancer-detecting feat.

Yet another study on dogs found that they can smell -- through a person's breath or sweat -- whether or not a diabetic person has high or low blood sugar.

After the 2011 magnitude 9 earthquake in Japan, Hiroyuki Yamauchi of National Tsing Hua University and colleagues conducted a survey on how cats reacted ahead of the quake.


The survey found that six or more days before the devastating earthquake, some cats engaged in unusual behaviors and became more stressed out. Felines began "trembling, being restless and escaping." Still other cats, immediately prior to the quake, became just as agitated.

The researchers believe that cats may sense quakes ahead of time because they have a wider range of hearing than humans. They also might be able to detect changes in atmospheric pressure, gravity and ground deformation.

Yamauchi and colleagues also found that cows behaved differently several days before the magnitude 9 earthquake in Japan. Specifically, cows "showed lowered milk production six days before the earthquake," they reported. The decrease in milk yield continued for another four days.

Owners also reported that their dogs were agitated in the days before the quake. Dogs would howl and bark in ways not typical of their normal behavior.

Have you ever noticed that bees are nowhere in sight before it rains? They sense moisture changes in the atmosphere, causing them to take shelter in their hives before downpours begin.

If you notice ladybugs bunching together, there's a good chance that super hot weather is on the way. They gather to preserve their body moisture, safeguarding against drying out.


So far, the animals on this list have all displayed stress or a desire to run away ahead of natural disasters. Sharks are just the opposite. They seem to be the ultimate storm chasers.

Neil Hammerschlag of The R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami found this out after tagging sharks, such as tiger sharks. They and other shark species gravitate to rapid temperature changes, which is exactly where storms usually intensify. Monitoring shark movements can help to predict where storms will emerge and develop.

Like dogs, fruit flies can smell cancer even when it affects only a small number of cells. In fact, they can sniff out cancer cells from healthy ones using their sense of smell alone, according to a study conducted earlier this year by Alja Lüdke and colleagues at the University of Konstanz.

The study focused on different types of breast cancer, but it is likely that fruit flies can detect other types of cancer too.

"As not only cancer cells can be distinguished from healthy cells, but also subgroups were discernible within the cancer cells, it seems that even different types of breast cancer cells can be differentiated via the antenna of Drosophila (fruit flies)," Lüdke explained to ScienceDaily.

Clearly medical experts do not plan to have dogs or fruit flies sniffing around in examination rooms. Instead, scientists are hoping to create high tech pre-screening devices inspired by the detection methods of dogs and fruit flies.

Silvertip grizzly bears have an amazing sense of smell, such that they can sniff out a human that is 18 miles away. The same olfactory prowess, combined with other sensory abilities, likely allows them to detect incoming storms and possibly other natural disasters. They could probably smell cancer too, but running studies on these formidable carnivores would pose challenges.

Humans have super sensory detective powers too, such as bat-like echolocation that could be used to predict any number of natural disasters.

Usually such skills are more developed in people who meditate or who have disabilities, such as blindness, which causes the brain to tap into seemingly hidden abilities. A study on the phenomenon was published in the journal .

Mel Goodale, Canada Research Chair in Visual Neuroscience, and Director of the Center for Brain and Mind, said in a press release, "It is clear echolocation enables blind people to do things otherwise thought to be impossible without vision and can provide blind and visually-impaired people with a high degree of independence."

It stands to reason that our senses might also pick up cues given off by earthquakes, storms and other natural disasters before they fully strike.

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Calgary photographer captures fireball over Mount Rundle

Calgary Fireball

© Brett Abernethy / Calgary Herald

Calgary photographer Brett Abernethy captured a shot of an apparent fireball streaking across the night sky in Banff over Mount Rundle on Saturday, December 20, 2014.

Calgary photographer Brett Abernethy was out in Banff shooting aurora over the night sky early Saturday when he captured what appeared to be a fireball zipping over the mountains.

Abernethy said he and a fellow photographer were set up at Johnson Lake taking a shot of Mount Rundle at around 1:22 a.m. when the sky lit up.

"It was like daytime almost. It fragmented into three pieces. We were both in awe. Then I realized my shot was exposing as it was going on," he said, adding he used a 40-second exposure.

When he looked at the photo he snapped with his Canon 5D Mark III, using a Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 lens, he was pleasantly surprised to see he'd captured a bright light streaking over the mountains.

"I got to a whole level of excitement," he said. "When I was a kid, I remember the light, the sky lighting up once. But I didn't see anything like that, that's for sure."

Abernethy says he went online to see if anyone else caught a glimpse of the light show, but couldn't find any chatter about the event, adding it was early in the morning and many Banff residents may have been asleep.

Calgary astronomer Alan Dyer said in an e-mail that by looking at the photo, it appears to be a fireball, "and a bright one at that - a natural meteor entering the atmosphere and burning up."

It's not clear from the photo if fragments might have survived to reach the earth, Dyer added.

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USGS: Earthquake Magnitude 6.6 - 157km WNW of Tobelo, Indonesia

Tobelo Quake_211214


Event Time

2014-12-21 11:34:14 UTC

2014-12-21 19:34:14 UTC+08:00 at epicenter


2.126°N 126.651°E depth=54.6km (34.0mi)

Nearby Cities

157km (98mi) WNW of Tobelo, Indonesia

168km (104mi) NNW of Kota Ternate, Indonesia

168km (104mi) NNW of Ternate, Indonesia

179km (111mi) ENE of Bitung, Indonesia

1042km (647mi) WSW of Koror Town, Palau

Scientific Data

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Private prison corporation with record of inmate abuse given control of immigrant detention center

detention center nogales

© Reuters

Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match on a television from their holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona June 18, 2014.

The Department of Homeland Security this week handed the keys to the largest detention center for undocumented immigrant families over to Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison company with a record of disregarding inmate safety and flouting federal laws. The Obama administration announced on Monday that CCA would run a 50-acre compound in Dilley, Texas, that will ultimately hold 2,400 women and children awaiting release or deportation.

In 2012, CCA settled out of court with the American Civil Liberties Union after the ACLU sued on behalf of inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center. Because CCA had not hired enough staff, in 2008, the CCA-run correctional facility experienced four times as many prisoner-on-prisoner assaults as Idaho's seven other prisons combined, the ACLU found. Inmates called the facility "the gladiator school." The 2012 suit also charged CCA with falsifying records and billing the state for 4,800 hours of work at posts that in actuality remained vacant. In 2013, a federal judge held CCA in contempt of court for continuing to understaff the prison, even after it was successfully sued by the ACLU. CCA lost its $30 million contract for the prison with the state, and the FBI launched an investigation into the company in 2014.

CCA's reputation doesn't end with Idaho. In 2013, the Texas Observer called the state's CCA-run Dawson State Jail for nonviolent offenders in Dallas "the worst state jail in Texas ." Seven inmates have died in Dawson since 2004, among them 30-year-old Ashleigh Parker, who died of pneumonia while an inmate. Parker's family claims CCA staff denied her life-saving antibiotics. They filed a lawsuit, but later dropped it. In 2010, 45-year-old Pamela Weatherby died from diabetes-related complications after CCA staff at Dawson replaced her medically prescribed insulin injections with cheaper oral insulin. Weatherby suffered through multiple diabetic comas before her death. Her family is also suing CCA.

Perhaps the most grisly tale out of Dawson is Autumn Miller's. Miller gave birth to a premature baby at 26 weeks after CCA guards refused her cries for medical attention, she claims. She delivered her daughter, Gracie, into a prison toilet. Gracie lived four days. Miller, too, is suing CCA.

Furthermore, in 2012, riots broke out at two CCA-run prisons in Mississippi. In one instance, inmates killed one guard and took CCA employees hostage.

Now, the Obama administration has given CCA the reins of the federal government's largest detention facility for undocumented immigrant families, a group that already faces a higher-than-average risk of assault and sexual abuse in detention centers. The compound, a former oil field worker's camp about 70 miles southwest of San Antonio, will hold 2,400 women and children, who will remain at the facility, run by CCA, until they are released or deported.

A 2011 investigation by Frontline found that few of the more than 170 complaints filed against guards by federal immigration detainees for sexual abuse over the course of four years were even investigated by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Texas facility is not the first immigration detention center run by CCA. In April 2013, two Guatemalan nationals held at the Eloy Detention Center outside Phoenix, Arizona, another CCA-run facility, committed suicide three days apart. At the time, Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, told Prison Legal News, "Suicides are a red flag. They usually signify a much larger problem. Sometimes it's because of ineffective mental health treatment, but often times it's caused by poor staffing issues."

In 2005, a female detainee at a CCA-run immigrant detention facility in Otay Mesa, near San Diego, sued CCA, claiming a correctional officer raped her twice . The guard was fired as a direct result of an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Investigations, but both the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Civil Rights Division declined to prosecute him, according to a report by the DHS's Office of Inspector General. The report also found that, in May, 2005, a detainee at a CCA facility in San Diego alleged a correctional officer "dislodged him from his wheelchair when he tried to enter another area." The detainee suffered no injuries, CCA medical staff found, and the correctional officer was placed on administrative leave.

CCA, the largest for-profit prison company in the country, is worth more than $1 billion. It has long lobbied for stricter laws against illegal immigration, whose enforcement means more detainees for its prisons. Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB 1070, which requires police to detain individuals if there is a "reasonable suspicion" that they are not in the country legally, was in fact initially drafted by a group called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. Representatives from CCA were part of the committee that drafted the legislation for ALEC, according to an investigation by NPR. And of the 36 legislators who co-sponsored the bill in Arizona's legislature, 30 received campaign donations from CCA. Yet, representatives from CCA deny that the company engages in immigration law lobbying.

A request for comment to CCA by phone was not immediately returned.

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Lukashenko says Belarus is ready to help Ukraine

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko

© Michail Metsel/TASS

Belarus is ready to offer support to Ukraine, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Sunday at a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko.

"I want everything in Ukraine to be well. Many interpret it as some kind of games. I know you are not among them," the Belarusian news agency BELTA quoted Lukashenko as saying. "That is why, and I have told you this before: if you want anything from Belarus, just say it, we will give you anything you might ask in just a day."

"I am telling it openly, we have always done everything the Ukrainian president asked us. And we will continue that way," Lukashenko said.

"This is not a game for us. Not just because of trade but because we are neighbours, we live side by side, we are kinsfolk," he added.

The Ukrainian president, in turn, said he hoped the Minsk talks on the settlement in eastern Ukraine would proceed as energetically as they had started. He said that thanks to "efficient cooperation" with the Belarusian side "such terms as the 'Minsk format,' the 'Minsk memorandum,' the 'Minsk protocol,' and the 'Minsk agreements' are part of the history of diplomacy now."

Belarusian-Ukrainian television channel

A Belarusian-Ukrainian television channel will be launched in Belarus as agreed by the two Presidents, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus and Pyotr Poroshenko of Ukraine, at their meeting on Sunday.

"We already have such experiences. Three or four Russian channels are working jointly with ours," the national news agency BELTA cited Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko as saying. "Why not establishing such a joint channel with Ukraine?".

Belarusian capital Minsk hosted a meeting of the parties to the Ukrainian conflict at OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) - mediated talks on September 5. The meeting yielded a ceasefire agreement and a peace settlement plan.

On September 20 in Minsk, the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine comprising representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE adopted a memorandum outlining the parameters for the implementation of commitments on the ceasefire in Ukraine laid down in the Minsk Protocol of September 5. The document contains nine points, including in particular a ban on the use of all armaments and withdrawal of weapons with the calibres of over 100 millimetres to a distance of 15 kilometres from the contact line from each side. The OSCE was tasked with controlling the implementation of memorandum provisions. The protocol was signed by OSCE envoy Heidi Tagliavini, Ukraine's former president Leonid Kuchma, Russia's Ambassador to Kiev Mikhail Zurabov, DPR Prime Minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko and the head of Lugansk People's Republic (LPR), Igor Plotnitsky.

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CIA 'enhanced interrogation' vs. ISIS torture: See if you can tell the difference

Abu Ghraib prison

© AP

A file photo of renovated Abu Ghraib prison, now renamed Baghdad Central Prison, Iraq.

It's been a big week for abhorrent torture manifestos.

On Tuesday, the Senate released its much-anticipated report outlining the CIA's brutal post-9/11 torture program. A few days before, the Islamic State (IS) group released what appears to be an "abhorrent" pamphlet to its followers with guidelines on how to capture, keep and sexually abuse female slaves, a reminder of the militant group's vicious tactics. Both document are testaments to the brutality of the war on terror, from the CIA interrogators fighting to "save American lives" to IS waging a bloody war against the West.

What's even more disturbing is how accounts of CIA and Islamic State torture - from the Senate report for the former and months of news reports from the latter - are, at times, virtually indistinguishable from one another. Speaking on the Senate floor after the release of the CIA torture report, Sen. John McCain passionately asserted that "our enemies act without conscience. We must not." As it turns out, that moment is long past.

Read the 13 torture accounts below see for yourself:

1. Prisoners were "routinely beaten and subjected to waterboarding."

2. The waterboarding of one prized prisoner devolved into a "series of near drownings," where the process induced convulsions and vomiting.

3. Prisoners were subjected to "rectal rehydration" or "rectal feeding."

4. Interrogators "chained [a prisoner's] feet to a bar and then hung the bar so that he was upside down from the ceiling. Then they left him there."

5. Prisoners were forcefully kept awake, at times with their hands shackled above their heads.

6. Detainees "were starved and threatened with execution by one group ... only to be handed off to another group that brought them sweets and contemplated freeing them."

7. Prisoners were subjected to extended isolation and experienced "hallucinations, paranoia and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation."

8. Prisoners were made to stand in "stress positions" on broken bones and prosthetic limbs.

9. Prisoners often spent weeks in complete darkness.

10. One prisoner was forced to watch interrogators beat another prisoner until "the whole cell was covered in blood" ... and then sleep in it.

11. One prisoner "shared a room with a decapitated body for days."

12. One prisoner was locked in what was described as a "dungeon," shackled with "only a bucket to use for human waste."

13. Prisoners were threatened with harm to their children or sexual abuse of their parents, including rape and torture.

BONUS. Prisoners were subjected to mock executions.

1, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, Bonus

CIA interrogators: 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, Bonus

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