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Thursday, 15 January 2015

Astronomers are predicting at least two more large planets in the Solar System

Unknown Planets

© NASA/JPL-Caltech

At least two unknown planets could exist in our solar system beyond Pluto.

Could there be another Pluto-like object out in the far reaches of the Solar System? How about two or more?

Earlier this week, we discussed a recent paper from planet-hunter Mike Brown, who said that while there aren't likely to be any bright, easy-to-find objects, there could be dark ones "lurking far away." Now, a group of astronomers from the UK and Spain maintain at least two planets must exist beyond Neptune and Pluto in order to explain the orbital behavior of objects that are even farther out, called extreme trans-Neptunian objects (ETNO).


© Illustration Credit: Larry McNish, Data: M.Brown)

The presently known largest small bodies in the Kuiper Belt are likely not to be surpassed by any future discoveries. This is the conclusion of Dr. Michael Brown,

We do know that Pluto shares its region Solar System with more than 1500 other tiny, icy worlds along with likely countless smaller and darker ones that have not yet been detected.

In two new paper published this week, scientists at the Complutense University of Madrid and the University of Cambridge noted that the most accepted theory of trans-Neptunian objects is that they should orbit at a distance of about 150 AU, be in an orbital plane - or inclination - similar to the planets in our Solar System, and they should be randomly distributed.

But that differs from what is actually observed. What astronomers see are groupings of objects with widely disperse distances (between 150 AU and 525 AU) and orbital inclinations that vary between 0 to 20 degrees.

"This excess of objects with unexpected orbital parameters makes us believe that some invisible forces are altering the distribution of the orbital elements of the ETNO," said Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, scientist at UCM and co-author of the study, " and we consider that the most probable explanation is that other unknown planets exist beyond Neptune and Pluto."

He added that the exact number is uncertain, but given the limited data that is available, their calculations suggest "there are at least two planets, and probably more, within the confines of our solar system."

In their studies, the team analyzed the effects of what is called the 'Kozai mechanism,' which is related to the gravitational perturbation that a large body exerts on the orbit of another much smaller and further away object. They looked at how the highly eccentric comet 96P/Machholz1 is influenced by Jupiter (it will come near the orbit of Mercury in 2017, but it travels as much as 6 AU at aphelion) and it may "provide the key to explain the puzzling clustering of orbits around argument of perihelion close to 0° recently found for the population of ETNOs," the team wrote in one of their papers.

2012 VP113

© Scott S. Sheppard: Carnegie Institution for Science

The discovery images of 2012 VP113. Each one was taken about two hours apart on Nov. 5, 2012. Behind the object, you can see background stars and galaxies that remained still (from Earth’s perspective) in the picture frame.

They also looked at the dwarf planet discovered last year called 2012 VP113 in the Oort cloud (its closest approach to the Sun is about 80 astronomical units) and how some researchers say it appears its orbit might be influenced by the possible presence of a dark and icy super-Earth, up to ten times larger than our planet.

"This Sedna-like object has the most distant perihelion of any known minor planet and the value of its argument of perihelion is close to 0°," the team writes in their second paper. "This property appears to be shared by almost all known asteroids with semimajor axis greater than 150 au and perihelion greater than 30 au (the extreme trans-Neptunian objects or ETNOs), and this fact has been interpreted as evidence for the existence of a super-Earth at 250 au. In this scenario, a population of stable asteroids may be shepherded by a distant, undiscovered planet larger than the Earth that keeps the value of their argument of perihelion librating around 0° as a result of the Kozai mechanism."

Of course, the theory put forth in two papers published by the team goes against the predictions of current models on the formation of the Solar System, which state that there are no other planets moving in circular orbits beyond Neptune.

But the team pointed to the recent discovery of a planet-forming disk around the star HL Tauri that lies more than 100 astronomical units from the star. HL Tauri is more massive and younger than our Sun and the discovery suggests that planets can form several hundred astronomical units away from the center of the system.

The team based their analysis by studying 13 different objects, so what is needed is more observations of the outer regions of our Solar System to determine what might be hiding out there.

Further reading:

Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, Raúl de la Fuente Marcos, Sverre J. Aarseth. "Flipping minor bodies: what comet 96P/Machholz 1 can tell us about the orbital evolution of extreme trans-Neptunian objects and the production of near-Earth objects on retrograde orbits". 446(2):1867-1873, 2015.

C. de la Fuente Marcos, R. de la Fuente Marcos. "Extreme trans-Neptunian objects and the Kozai mechanism: signalling the presence of trans-Plutonian planets? 443(1): L59-L63, 2014.

SiNC press release

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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The horror of the Paris rally - propaganda and the control of the masses

To amuse myself for a brief moment -- and perhaps you, too, dear reader, for I assuredly shall do my best not to lose sight of your concerns in what follows -- I might invoke the spirit of Master Dickens, as revealed in his work celebrating the holiday just recently passed. I therefore state:

Any significant intellectual culture, especially any aspect of that always exceedingly fragile enterprise that rises to challenge established authority and its numerous, labyrinthine dictates of shoulds and should nots, what is permitted and what is not, the limits of correct thought and professed belief, and uncountable and often incomprehensible related matters, is dead: to begin with. Any significant intellectual culture is as dead as a door-nail.

Charlie Hebdo

© AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic

People observe a minute of silence in Istanbul on January 8, 2015 for the victims of an attack by armed gunmen on the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7 which left at least 12 dead and many others injured

I state this proposition in Master Dickens' manner: emphatically.

I do this not only to amuse myself, if only momentarily, but to keep from going mad. As I further consider the Charlie Hebdo spectacle, its significance and implications grow ever more ominous and threatening. I watch this spectacle, and I want to scream: What is wrong with everyone? Don't you understand what is going on here?

A few people do, and I am always deeply grateful to encounter them. But for the most part, everyone -- and here, I speak of everyone in the West, which is where I reside, most unhappily at present, and where you probably read this -- has enthusiastically rallied to the cause of "freedom," and "freedom of the press" and "freedom of speech" more specifically. Almost everyone screams: Je suis Charlie!

So many damned liars. Allowing for the extremely rare exception, not one of the throng shouting "Je suis Charlie" is at any kind of risk at all, nor do they ever intend to be, not if they can help it. I see a crowd of millions, every single goddamned person holding aloft a sign emblazoned with big, bold lettering:




The message loses its charm around the fifty-thousandth repetition, roughly speaking. As I noted a few days ago, uniqueness, as well as courage, abhors a mob. We might be so bold as to say that seeking the comfort of the mob vitiates the message.

So. Goddamned liars, a lot of them. Before proceeding to far graver matters, let us consider a ridiculous incident that reveals just how transparently dishonest the Hebdo spectacle is. At the Golden Globe Awards this past Sunday night, Margaret Cho appeared in a running comic bit as a North Korean general, Cho Young-ja. (It was very labored and not notably clever or original. Perhaps you expected Oscar Wilde? This is Hollywood, my dear.) Without missing a beat, numerous critics pounced on this offensively "racist" attempt at humor.

Even Deadline Hollywood made the connection in its opening paragraph:

Comedian Margaret Cho has responded to critics who deemed her North Korea-skewering Golden Globes appearance racist - ironically enough, in an evening filled with achievements for diverse voices and cries of "Je Suis Charlie" in the name of freedom of expression.

Aside from the fact that "freedom of expression" allows some racist or otherwise offensive statements but not others -- hardly an unimportant point, and one which will become worryingly significant as we proceed -- doesn't Cho get some kind of special dispensation here? As she pointed out in one of her responses: "I'm of mixed North/South Korean descent - you imprison, starve and brainwash my people you get made fun of by me" Since Cho is of of mixed North/South Korean descent, doesn't she have the right to engage in this sort of humor, in the same way that blacks can use the word "nigger"? I'm just asking; there are lots and lots of rules about all this, and it's easy to get confused.

But any confusion dissipates when we consider the Paris rally. Let's begin with the description in The New York Times :

More than a million people joined over 40 presidents and prime ministers on the streets of Paris on Sunday in the most striking show of solidarity in the West against the threat of Islamic extremism since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Responding to terrorist strikes that killed 17 people in France and riveted worldwide attention, Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists and people of all races, ages and political stripes swarmed central Paris beneath a bright blue sky, calling for peace and an end to violent extremism.

The Interior Ministry described the demonstration as the largest in modern French history, with as many as 1.6 million people. ...

The world leaders - including President François Hollande of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain - joined the march in a solemn line. They moved slowly, clasping arms to show solidarity with the victims. The crowd roared in approval.

Two facts of paramount importance must be noted. First, the target of this massive demonstration was Islamic extremism. The Times (as well as various commentators) tries to camouflage this a bit, with the reference to "violent extremism" -- but, c'mon. When a million and a half Charlies gather together -- each one as unique as a fucking snowflake, don't you know -- they do so in response to the Hebdo murders. The world's view is that those murders are a horrifying instance of barbaric Islamic extremism.

The second fact is painfully obvious, and that obviousness is an essential part of its camouflage. Most of the coverage of the Paris rally focuses on the size of the crowd -- over a million and a half people, all marching in support of freedom of expression! -- and adds as a kind of postscript that over 40 "world leaders" "joined" the demonstration. This is completely backwards. When over 40 "world leaders" enthusiastically take part in an event of this kind, that fact alone establishes a single incontrovertible, irrefutable fact: whatever is happening, whatever views are being expressed, none of it is any threat whatsoever to power and authority. More specifically, it is no threat whatsoever to State power. No wonder all those world leaders were eager to take part: the largest demonstration "in modern French history" was nothing less than a glorification of State power.

This truth becomes still more obvious when we remember the actual records of the world leaders in question. Of course, almost no one chose to remember these particular facts. But Daniel Wickham did (via Chris Floyd) in a series of tweets. Here are a few examples of, as Wickham puts it, "the staunch defenders of the free press attending the solidarity rally in Paris today":

  • Prime Minister of Davutoglu of Turkey, which imprisons more journalists than any other country in the world

  • Prime Minister Jomaa of Tunisia, which recently jailed blogger Yassine Ayan for 3 years for "defaming the army"

  • Sec-Gen of NATO, who are yet to be held to account for deliberately bombing and killing 16 Serbian journos in '99

  • Prime Minister Kopacz of Poland, which raided a magazine to seize recordings embarrassing for the ruling party

Perhaps it would be unkind to say that all those Charlies in Paris (and the millions of additional Charlies around the world) are fools, but the characterization is not inaccurate. But it is more to the point to state that all these Charlies are pawns in a spectacle that served to strengthen the foundations of State power. Moreover, and in an especially hideous twist, the demonstration -- with all those world leaders greeted by a crowd that "roared in approval" -- served to bestow specifically moral approval and encouragement to State power.
charlie hebdo political leaders

© Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

March of the Hypocrites. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (2ndL), French President Francois Hollande (C), Germany's Chancellor Angela Merke (4thL), European Council President Donald Tusk (5thL) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attend the solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris January 11, 2015.

Given the growing swaths of destruction, brutality and murder that are the product of State power in recent years, and of Western State power in particular, one might have thought that moral approval and encouragement is the last thing one would choose to gift to the monsters who lead those States, at least if one seeks a better world that is significantly more compassionate and caring than the world in which we now live. And note how cheaply the States in question purchased this gift: their leaders offer a few grunts indicating their supposed approval of "freedom of expression" and "free speech," and the crowd happily accedes to their power. No one troubles to recall the chasm that separates what these States claim to support and what they actually do. The leaders of these States now have still further confirmation that as long as they mumble the right words and slogans at critical moments, they can act in the most oppressive and brutal ways -- and they will never be called to account.

And, my friends, we must add still one more element to appreciate more fully the horror of the Paris rally. Here I turn to an article by Rafia Zakaria, "Let's talk about the other dead journalists" (via The Angry Arab News Service). I encourage you to read Zakaria's article in full. Here are some key excerpts (the highlights are mine):

In France, as elsewhere in the Western world, the attack on Charlie Hebdo is being lamented, and the dead journalists are being celebrated as heroes whose work exemplifies a fearless and defiant pursuit of freedom of expression. However, this fight for freedom of speech is not always seen as a Muslim struggle. Yet the number of Muslim journalists killed defending journalism tells a different story. More than half of 61 journalists killed in 2014 were Muslims, many working in conflict-affected countries such as Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Somalia. But few have received the recognition or commemoration accorded to Western journalists or a handful who worked for Western media outlets. ...

[T]he evident double standard and selective outrage illuminates the hierarchy of privilege in our moral reckoning in response to acts of terrorism. It is a dynamic that becomes visible only when Western journalists are targeted. ...

[The] invisibility [of the deaths of Muslim journalists] is part of the routine eliding over terrorism's brown, Muslim victims that allows the extremists' unexamined xenophobia and divisive narrative of us versus them to prevail and persist. Failure to mourn and recognize the sacrifices of terrorism victims equally carries enormous risk. The aversion to terrorism only when it reaches the West or kills Westerners suggests our ease with the banishment of terrorism to some distant terrains. ...

Muslims are more likely to experience war and displacement than any other religious group. Swaths of predominantly Muslim countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan are in the throes of civil strife. Millions of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans have become refugees in already taxed neighboring countries such as Jordan and Pakistan. Not a single person in these countries remains unaffected by the ravages of violence, by grisly massacres at schools and mosques and restaurants and markets. Yet there are some in the West who insist on turning to these beleaguered, injured and maimed populations to demand collective apology for the acts of any and every killer with a Muslim background.

Perhaps the most profoundly disturbing part of Zakaria's argument comes toward the conclusion of her article:

While our selective outrage ignores the pain and sacrifices of Muslims, the generalization imagines all Muslims as perpetrators of terrorism. ...

The horror of terrorism is meant to eviscerate context. It incites the desire for protection and revenge. The collective blame placed on Muslims, the thoughtless investment of blame and suspicion and the highlighting of freedom of expression as a solely Western value is a victory for extremists. Our selective indignation also gives credence to the idea that all the world's Muslims are already terrorists or potential terrorists. Muslims should not be recognized only when a few of them kill for terrorism and be ignored when thousands of them die at its hands.

For over a decade, the West, led by the bloodthirsty and barbaric government of the United States, has made war on Muslims. The West has invaded and bombed Muslim countries, and tortured, imprisoned and murdered Muslims in a procession of horrors that continue today, and that stretch into a limitless future of pain and suffering. Western leaders have sometimes been at pains to insist that the West is not at war with Islam, but only with Islamic extremism. More and more, the mask slips. More and more, we hear people say, occasionally with regret, but usually with barely concealed glee, "Oh, yes, the real problem is Islam itself." The record amassed to date establishes that the West's enemy is indeed Islam, and Muslims: not only does the West ignore the deaths of Muslim journalists, but the deaths of Muslims in general. The number of murdered Muslims who are "innocent" even by Western standards is beyond reckoning, although Western leaders and opinionmakers steadfastly refuse to acknowledge the fact.

In that connection, consider the difference in scale involved. Twelve people were murdered at the Charlie Hebdo offices. Yes, that is a terrible crime. Some years ago, in September 2007, I attempted to capture the difference in scale by addressing Western narcissism, and the narcissism of Americans in particular. Because Western lives, and Western deaths, are of special significance, and unquestionably of far greater importance than the deaths of assorted brown people in other parts of the world, I made some calculations:

Since Americans' narcissism is so all-encompassing, and because the superior value of American lives and goals as compared to those of all other peoples is regarded as an axiom never to be questioned, let's put these horrors in terms that Americans might understand. Let's make it about you.

For ease of computation, we'll use approximate figures. Assume the U.S.'s war crimes have resulted in one million deaths. That is roughly 1/26 of the total Iraqi population. An equivalent number of American deaths would be 11.5 million people. 3,000 Americans were murdered on 9/11. In terms of casualties, 11.5 million deaths represent 3,800 9/11s -- or a 9/11 every day for ten and a half years.

Let me repeat that: a 9/11 every day for ten and a half years.

Perhaps you think these casualty figures are highly inflated. Fine. Cut them in half. That's a 9/11 every day for a little over five years.

Every day.

Do you begin to understand now?

The United States Government was so pleased with its work that it has done its best to replicate this notable achievement in a series of other countries -- Libya, Syria, in Asia, in Africa, anywhere the United States has "vital national interests," which is everywhere in the world. The primary target never alters: it is Islam, and Muslims.

With regard to these issues, what most people take away from the Hebdo story is that some cartoonists were making fun of Islam and they were murdered because of it. They were making Islam an object of ridicule. You may rest assured that the millions of instant Charlies in the West have no deeper understanding of the subtleties to be found in the cartoons, if subtleties there in fact be. As these events have demonstrated, capped by the "historic" rally in Paris, to make Islam an object of ridicule is fine with tens of millions of Westerners. It is certainly fine with Western political leaders. For those leaders, making Islam and Muslims objects of ridicule is an invaluable aid to their plans for ongoing, perpetual war. Ridicule is an indispensable element in the demonization of the "other." As just one of innumerable examples from history (as noted by Thomas Fleming, excerpted here):

Everyone from journalists to President Roosevelt routinely used the dehumanizing slang term "Jap," and regularly compared Japanese soldiers and civilians to monkeys, baboons, and gorillas. Admiral Halsey was especially fond of the monkey metaphor, invariably attaching "yellow" to it. At one point Halsey said he could hardly wait to put to sea "to get some more monkey meat." ...

New Dealers and others around the president made no attempt to alter this dehumanizing war against the Japanese. In September 1942, Admiral William Leahy, Roosevelt's White House chief of staff, told Vice President Henry Wallace that Japan was "our Carthage" and "we should go ahead and destroy her utterly." Wallace noted this sentiment without objection in his diary. Elliott Roosevelt, the president's son, told Wallace some months later that he thought Americans should kill "about half the Japanese civilian population." New Dealer Paul McNutt, chairman of the War Manpower Commission, went him one better, recommending "the extermination of the Japanese in toto."

Yes, there were many, many cartoons portraying these themes, replete with "Jap monkeys." The Hebdo cartoonists would have felt right at home.

It is a tragically common historic pattern: ridicule, demonization, extermination. The consolidation of the United States in its current form and its spread across the North American continent were founded on just such a program. Today, we have a program that, in Zakaria's words, "imagines all Muslims as perpetrators of terrorism," and "gives credence to the idea that all the world's Muslims are already terrorists or potential terrorists."

Despite all the lip service to "freedom of expression," we know that indiscriminate ridicule remains definitely off-limits. The heated, instantaneous criticism of Margaret Cho is but one of numerous proofs. If you're a white comedian, incorporate an offensive joke about "nigger monkeys" (also a common historical trope) -- and wait to see how many of the newly-minted Charlies noisily clamor to defend you. But Islam and Muslims as objects of ridicule have now been officially put on the "approved" list.

To all of this, the huge crowd in Paris has given its enthusiastic blessing, along with its roars of approval. In so doing, they also blessed the States that are so intent on continuing this program into the future. All those Western leaders must be pleased beyond measure. They procured an enormous propaganda victory with no effort or cost on their own part whatsoever.

I genuinely do not mean to be presumptuous in offering the following thought. It is impossible for someone who is not a member of a persecuted group to understand or feel fully what that persecution is like, although I do have some experience of this kind as a gay man (and as a gay man who is now 66 and was a teenager, with a growing awareness of his sexuality, during the 1960s, which was a terrifying experience in many ways). But if I were Muslim and I contemplated these recent events, and if I further considered the implications and possible ramifications of what has transpired, I would probably be very, very anxious.

In fact, I might be scared shitless.

Recommended article: Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Horrific footage of civilian slaughter in Eastern Ukraine

A new documentary has emerged, showing graphic footage of civilian slaughter from shelling in Eastern Ukraine during the summer of 2014.

In it, you get to see Kiev's GRADs shell houses, hospitals, and nursing homes in Donetsk and other towns in Eastern Ukraine. Grandmothers and children alike are charred and shredded with shrapnel in the streets. These are the people that western media would have you believe are Pro-Russian terrorists. This video should put to rest any doubts as to the true nature of the conflict.

Warning: Graphic Content

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Australia's forgotten coup - and how the US godfather rules from Canberra to Kiev

Gough Whitlam australia coup

© news.com.au

Gough Whitlam on the steps of Parliament House in Canberra on November 11, 1975, after he was sacked as Prime Minister.

Washington's role in the fascist putsch against an elected government in Ukraine will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore the historical record. Since 1945, dozens of governments, many of them democracies, have met a similar fate, usually with bloodshed.

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries on earth with fewer people than Wales, yet under the reformist Sandinistas in the 1980s it was regarded in Washington as a "strategic threat". The logic was simple; if the weakest slipped the leash, setting an example, who else would try their luck?

The great game of dominance offers no immunity for even the most loyal US "ally". This is demonstrated by perhaps the least known of Washington's coups - in Australia. The story of this forgotten coup is a salutary lesson for those governments that believe a "Ukraine" or a "Chile" could never happen to them.

Australia's deference to the United States makes Britain, by comparison, seem a renegade. During the American invasion of Vietnam - which Australia had pleaded to join - an official in Canberra voiced a rare complaint to Washington that the British knew more about US objectives in that war than its antipodean comrade-in-arms. The response was swift: "We have to keep the Brits informed to keep them happy. You are with us come what may."

This dictum was rudely set aside in 1972 with the election of the reformist Labor government of Gough Whitlam. Although not regarded as of the left, Whitlam - now in his 98th year - was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride, propriety and extraordinary political imagination. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country's resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to "buy back the farm" and speak as a voice independent of London and Washington.

In the day after his election, Whitlam ordered that his staff should not be "vetted or harassed" by the Australian security organisation, ASIO - then, as now, beholden to Anglo-American intelligence. When his ministers publicly condemned the Nixon/Kissinger administration as "corrupt and barbaric", Frank Snepp, a CIA officer stationed in Saigon at the time, said later: "We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators."

Whitlam demanded to know if and why the CIA was running a spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, ostensibly a joint Australian/US "facility". Pine Gap is a giant vacuum cleaner which, as the whistleblower Edward Snowden recently revealed, allows the US to spy on everyone. In the 1970s, most Australians had no idea that this secretive foreign enclave placed their country on the front line of a potential nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Whitlam clearly knew the personal risk he was taking - as the minutes of a meeting with the US ambassador demonstrate. "Try to screw us or bounce us," he warned, "[and Pine Gap] will become a matter of contention".

Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me, "This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House. Consequences were inevitable... a kind of Chile was set in motion."

The CIA had just helped General Pinochet to crush the democratic government of another reformer, Salvador Allende, in Chile.

In 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Green was an imperious, very senior and sinister figure in the State Department who worked in the shadows of America's "deep state". Known as the "coupmaster", he had played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia - which cost up to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia was to the Australian Institute of Directors - described by an alarmed member of the audience as "an incitement to the country's business leaders to rise against the government".

Pine Gap's top-secret messages were de-coded in California by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the de-coders was a young Christopher Boyce, an idealist who, troubled by the "deception and betrayal of an ally", became a whistleblower. Boyce revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and referred to the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as "our man Kerr".

In his black top hat and medal-laden mourning suit, Kerr was the embodiment of imperium. He was the Queen of England's Australian viceroy in a country that still recognised her as head of state. His duties were ceremonial; yet Whitlam - who appointed him - was unaware of or chose to ignore Kerr's long-standing ties to Anglo-American intelligence.

The Governor-General was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, described by Jonathan Kwitny of the in his book, , as, "an elite, invitation-only group... exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA". The CIA "paid for Kerr's travel, built his prestige... Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money".

In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain's MI6 had long been operating against his government. "The Brits were actually de-coding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office," he said later. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, "We knew MI6 was bugging Cabinet meetings for the Americans." In interviews in the 1980s with the American investigative journalist Joseph Trento, executive officers of the CIA disclosed that the "Whitlam problem" had been discussed "with urgency" by the CIA's director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield, and that "arrangements" were made. A deputy director of the CIA told Trento: "Kerr did what he was told to do."

In 1975, Whitlam learned of a secret list of CIA personnel in Australia held by the Permanent Head of the Australian Defence Department, Sir Arthur Tange - a deeply conservative mandarin with unprecedented territorial power in Canberra. Whitlam demanded to see the list. On it was the name, Richard Stallings who, under cover, had set up Pine Gap as a provocative CIA installation. Whitlam now had the proof he was looking for.

On 10 November, 1975, he was shown a top secret telex message sent by ASIO in Washington. This was later sourced to Theodore Shackley, head of the CIA's East Asia Division and one of the most notorious figures spawned by the Agency. Shackley had been head of the CIA's Miami-based operation to assassinate Fidel Castro and Station Chief in Laos and Vietnam. He had recently worked on the "Allende problem".

Shackley's message was read to Whitlam. Incredibly, it said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country.

The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia's NSA whose ties to Washington were, and remain binding. He was briefed on the "security crisis". He had then asked for a secure line and spent 20 minutes in hushed conversation.

On 11 November - the day Whitlam was to inform Parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia - he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal "reserve powers", Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The problem was solved.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Tropical Storm Mekkhala heads towards Phillippines

© NASA/JAXA/SSAI, Hal Pierce

GPM satellite data showed that thunderstorm tops in rain bands east of Mekkhala's center reached heights of over 13 km (8 miles) on January 14, 2015.

Tropical Depression Mekkhala strengthened and organized on Jan. 14 and overnight into Jan. 15 when it reached tropical storm status. As the storm was consolidating, NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission core satellite captured rainfall data of the storm.

The GPM core satellite flew above Mekkhala on January 14, 2015 at 1043 UTC (5:43 a.m. EST). GPM's Microwave Imager (GMI) instrument observed rain falling at a rate of over 71.63 mm (about 2.8 inches) per hour in intense convective storms near the tropical cyclone's center.

At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland a 3-D view was created using data collected by GPM's Radar (Ku Band). The data showed that thunderstorm tops in rain bands east of Mekkhala's center reached heights of over 13 km (8 miles).

On January 15 at 0900 UTC (4 a.m. EST), Mekkhala's maximum sustained winds were near 35 knots (40 mph/62 kph). The center of the storm was located near 11.6 north latitude and 132.2 east longitude, about 277 nautical miles (318.8 miles/513 kph) north-northwest of Koror, Palau. Mekkhala was moving to the west at 8 knots (9.2 mph/14.8 kph). Satellite data showed that the bulk of convection and thunderstorms were over the western quadrant of the storm on January 15, indicating moderate vertical wind shear.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast calls for Mekkhala to slowly intensify over the next day and a half reaching a peak intensity of 50 knots (57.5 mph/92.6 kph) prior to making landfall. Mekkhala is expected to approach the central of Visayas region of the Philippines on January 17.

After landfall, interaction with the land, increased friction from moving over land and more stable air are expected to weaken the storm as it moves through the central and northern Philippines in a northwesterly direction, passing Manila in Luzon on January 19 and emerging into the South China Sea.

© NASA/JAXA/SSAI, Hal Pierce

GPM passed over Mekkhala on January 14, 2015 at 5:43 a.m. EST and observed rain falling at a rate of over 71.63 mm (about 2.8 inches) per hour in intense convective storms near the tropical cyclone's center.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Argentina: The country that Monsanto poisoned with agrochemicals

© AP/Natacha Pisarenko

In this March 31, 2013, photo, Camila Veron, 2, born with multiple organ problems and severely disabled, stands outside her home in Avia Terai, in Chaco province, Argentina. Doctors told Camila’s mother, Silvia Achaval that agrochemicals may be to blame. It’s nearly impossible to prove that exposure to a specific chemical caused an individual’s cancer or birth defect, but doctors say these cases merit a rigorous government investigation. “They told me that the water made this happen, because they spray a lot of poison here,” said Achaval.

American biotechnology has turned Argentina into the world's third-largest soybean producer, but the chemicals powering the boom aren't confined to soy and cotton and corn fields. They routinely contaminate homes and classrooms and drinking water. A growing chorus of doctors and scientists is warning that their uncontrolled use could be responsible for the increasing number of health problems turning up in hospitals across the South American nation. In the heart of Argentina's soybean business, house-to-house surveys of 65,000 people in farming communities found cancer rates two to four times higher than the national average, as well as higher rates of hypothyroidism and chronic respiratory illnesses. Associated Press photographer Natacha Pisarenko spent months documenting the issue in farming communities across Argentina.

Most provinces in Argentina forbid spraying pesticides and other agrochemicals next to homes and schools, with bans ranging in distance from 50 meters to as much as several kilometers from populated areas. The Associated Press found many cases of soybeans planted only a few feet from homes and schools, and of chemicals mixed and loaded onto tractors inside residential neighborhoods. In the last 20 years, agrochemical spraying has increased eightfold in Argentina- from 9 million gallons in 1990 to 84 million gallons today. Glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto's Round Up products, is used roughly eight to ten times more per acre than in the United States. Yet Argentina doesn't apply national standards for farm chemicals, leaving rule-making to the provinces and enforcement to the municipalities. The result is a hodgepodge of widely ignored regulations that leave people dangerously exposed.

Just came across more info about this story.

© Overgrowthesystem

In this March 29, 2013, photo, former farmworker Fabian Tomasi, 47, shows the condition of his emaciated body as he stands inside his home in Basavilbaso, in Entre Rios province, Argentina. Tomasi’s job was to keep the crop dusters flying by quickly filling their tanks but he says he was never trained to handle pesticides. Now he is near death from polyneuropathy.

BASAVILBASO, Argentina (AP) - Argentine farmworker Fabian Tomasi was never trained to handle pesticides. His job was to keep the crop-dusters flying by filling their tanks as quickly as possible, although it often meant getting drenched in poison.

Now, at 47, he's a living skeleton, so weak he can hardly swallow or go to the bathroom on his own.

Schoolteacher Andrea Druetta lives in Santa Fe Province, the heart of Argentina's soy country, where agrochemical spraying is banned within 500 meters (550 yards) of populated areas. But soy is planted just 30 meters (33 yards) from her back door. Her boys were showered in chemicals recently while swimming in the backyard pool.

After Sofia Gatica lost her newborn to kidney failure, she filed a complaint that led to Argentina's first criminal convictions for illegal spraying. But last year's verdict came too late for many of her 5,300 neighbors in Ituzaingo Annex. A government study there found alarming levels of agrochemical contamination in the soil and drinking water, and 80 percent of the children surveyed carried traces of pesticide in their blood.

© AP/Natacha Pisarenko

In this April 1, 2013, photo, Silvia Alvarez leans against her red brick home while keeping an eye on her son, Ezequiel Moreno, who was born with hydrocephalus, in Gancedo, in Chaco province, Argentina. Alvarez blames continuous exposure to agrochemical spraying for two miscarriages and her son’s health problems. Chaco provincial birth reports show that congenital defects quadrupled in the decade after genetically modified crops and their related agrochemicals arrived.

American biotechnology has turned Argentina into the world's third-largest soybean producer, but the chemicals powering the boom aren't confined to soy and cotton and corn fields.

The Associated Press documented dozens of cases around the country where poisons are applied in ways unanticipated by regulatory science or specifically banned by existing law. The spray drifts into schools and homes and settles over water sources; farmworkers mix poisons with no protective gear; villagers store water in pesticide containers that should have been destroyed.

Now doctors are warning that uncontrolled pesticide applications could be the cause of growing health problems among the 12 million people who live in the South American nation's vast farm belt.

In Santa Fe, cancer rates are two times to four times higher than the national average. In Chaco, birth defects quadrupled in the decade after biotechnology dramatically expanded farming in Argentina.

"The change in how agriculture is produced has brought, frankly, a change in the profile of diseases," says Dr. Medardo Avila Vazquez, a pediatrician and neonatologist who co-founded Doctors of Fumigated Towns, part of a growing movement demanding enforcement of agricultural safety rules. "We've gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects, and illnesses seldom seen before."

A nation once known for its grass-fed beef has undergone a remarkable transformation since 1996, when the St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. promised that adopting its patented seeds and chemicals would increase crop yields and lower pesticide use. Today, Argentina's entire soy crop and nearly all its corn and cotton are genetically modified, with soy cultivation alone tripling to 47 million acres (19 million hectares).

Agrochemical use did decline at first, then it bounced back, increasing ninefold from 9 million gallons (34 million liters) in 1990 to more than 84 million gallons (317 million liters) today as farmers squeezed in more harvests and pests became resistant to the poisons. Overall, Argentine farmers apply an estimated 4.3 pounds of agrochemical concentrate per acre, more than twice what U.S. farmers use, according to an AP analysis of government and pesticide industry data.

© AP/Natacha Pisarenko

In this May 2, 2013 photo, empty agrochemical containers including Monsanto’s Round Up products lay discarded at a recycling center in Quimili, Santiago del Estero province, Argentina.

Glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto's popular Roundup brand of pesticides, is one of the world's most widely used weed killers. It has been determined to be safe, if applied properly, by many regulatory agencies, including those of the United States and European Union.

On May 1, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency even raised the allowable levels of glyphosate residues in food, concluding that based on studies presented by Monsanto, "there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result to the general population or to infants and children from aggregate exposure."

Argentina's 23 provinces take the lead in regulating farming, and rules vary.

Spraying is banned within 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) of populated areas in some provinces and as little as 50 meters (55 yards) in others. About one-third of the provinces set no limits at all, and most lack detailed enforcement policies.

A federal environmental law requires applicators of toxic chemicals to suspend or cancel activities that threaten public health, "even when the link has not been scientifically proven," and "no matter the costs or consequences," but it has never been applied to farming, the auditor general found last year.

In response to soaring complaints, President Cristina Fernandez ordered a commission in 2009 to study the impact of agrochemical spraying on human health. Its initial report called for "systematic controls over concentrations of herbicides and their compounds ... such as exhaustive laboratory and field studies involving formulations containing glyphosate as well as its interactions with other agrochemicals as they are actually used in our country."

But the commission hasn't met since 2010, the auditor general found.

Government officials insist the problem is not a lack of research, but misinformation that plays on people's emotions. "I've seen countless documents, surveys, videos, articles in the news and in universities, and really our citizens who read all this end up dizzy and confused," Agriculture Secretary Lorenzo Basso said. "I think we have to publicize the commitment that Argentina has to being a food producer. Our model as an exporting nation has been called into question. We need to defend our model."

In a written statement, Monsanto spokesman Thomas Helscher said the company "does not condone the misuse of pesticides or the violation of any pesticide law, regulation, or court ruling."

"Monsanto takes the stewardship of products seriously and we communicate regularly with our customers regarding proper use of our products," Helscher said.

Argentina was among the earliest adopters of the new biotech farming model promoted by Monsanto and other U.S. agribusinesses.

Instead of turning the topsoil, spraying pesticides and then waiting until the poison dissipates before planting, farmers sow the seeds and spray afterward without harming crops genetically modified to tolerate specific chemicals.

This "no-till" method takes so much less time and money that farmers can reap more harvests and expand into land not worth the trouble before.

But pests develop resistance, even more so when the same chemicals are applied to genetically identical crops on a vast scale.

So while glyphosate is one of the world's safest herbicides, farmers now use it in higher concentrates and mix in much more toxic poisons, such as 2,4,D, which the U.S. military used in "Agent Orange" to defoliate jungles during the Vietnam War.

In 2006, a division of Argentina's agriculture ministry recommended adding caution labels urging that mixtures of glyphosate and more toxic chemicals be limited to "farm areas far from homes and population centers." The recommendation was ignored, according to the federal audit.

The government relies on industry research approved by the EPA, which said May 1 that "there is no indication that glyphosate is a neurotoxic chemical and there is no need for a developmental neurotoxicity study."

© AP/Natacha Pisarenko

In this April 1, 2013 photo, Aixa Cano, 5, who has hairy moles all over her body that doctors can’t explain, sits on a stoop outside her home in Avia Terai, in Chaco province, Argentina. Although it’s nearly impossible to prove, doctors say Aixa’s birth defect may be linked to agrochemicals. In Chaco, children are four times more likely to be born with devastating birth defects since biotechnology dramatically expanded farming in Argentina. Chemicals routinely contaminate homes, classrooms and drinking water.

Molecular biologist Dr. Andres Carrasco at the University of Buenos Aires says the burden from the chemical cocktails is worrisome, but even glyphosate alone could spell trouble for human health. He found that injecting a very low dose of glyphosate into embryos can change levels of retinoic acid, causing the same sort of spinal defects in frogs and chickens that doctors increasingly are registering in communities where farm chemicals are ubiquitous.

This acid, a form of vitamin A, is fundamental for keeping cancers in check and triggering genetic expression, the process by which embryonic cells develop into organs and limbs.

"If it's possible to reproduce this in a laboratory, surely what is happening in the field is much worse," Carrasco said. "And if it's much worse, and we suspect that it is, what we have to do is put this under a magnifying glass."

His findings, published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology in 2010, were rebutted by Monsanto, which said the results "are not surprising given their methodology and unrealistic exposure scenarios."

Monsanto said in response to AP's questions that chemical safety tests should only be done on live animals, and that injecting embryos is "less reliable and less relevant for human risk assessments."

"Glyphosate is even less toxic than the repellent you put on your children's skin," said Pablo Vaquero, Monsanto's corporate affairs director in Buenos Aires. "That said, there has to be a responsible and good use of these products because in no way would you put repellent in the mouths of children and no environmental applicator should spray fields with a tractor or a crop-duster without taking into account the environmental conditions and threats that stem from the use of the product."

Out in the fields, warnings are widely ignored.

For three years, Tomasi was routinely exposed to chemicals as he pumped pesticides into the tanks of crop-dusters. Now he's near death from polyneuropathy, a debilitating neurological disorder, which has left him wasted and shriveled.

"I prepared millions of liters of poison without any kind of protection, no gloves, masks or special clothing," he said. "I didn't know anything. I only learned later what it did to me, after contacting scientists."

"The poison comes in liquid concentrates, in containers with lots of precautions to take when applying it," Tomasi explained. "But nobody takes precautions."

With soybeans selling for about $500 a ton, growers plant where they can, often disregarding Monsanto's guidelines and provincial law by spraying with no advance warning, and even in windy conditions.

In Entre Rios, teachers reported that sprayers failed to respect 50-meter (55-yard) limits at 18 schools, dousing 11 during class. Five teachers filed police complaints this year.

Read more of the AP story here.

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Horrific footage of civilian slaughter in Eastern Ukraine

A new documentary has emerged, showing graphic footage of civilian slaughter from shelling in Eastern Ukraine during the summer of 2014.

In it, you get to see Kiev's GRADs shell houses, hospitals, and nursing homes in Donetsk and other towns in Eastern Ukraine. Grandmothers and children alike are charred and shredded with shrapnel in the streets. These are the people that western media would have you believe are Pro-Russian terrorists. This video should put to rest any doubts as to the true nature of the conflict.

Warning: Graphic Content

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Waste of time: Flu shot only 23 percent effective this year

© AFP Photo/Justin Sullivan

This US winter season's flu vaccine has been just 23 percent effective at preventing doctor visits for people of all ages, according to health authorities' early estimates out Thursday.

The flu vaccine for 2014-2015 is not the worst ever -- the past decade has ranged from 10 percent to 60 percent effective -- but its record is worrying enough that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged doctors to ramp up the use of antiviral medications in people who fall ill with influenza.

Its lack of punch is being blamed on multiple strains of the H3N2 virus that are circulating and making people sick, but that were not included in this season's vaccine.

"Physicians should be aware that all hospitalized patients and all outpatients at high risk for serious complications should be treated as soon as possible with one of three available influenza antiviral medications if influenza is suspected, regardless of a patient's vaccination status and without waiting for confirmatory testing," said Joe Bresee, branch chief in the CDC's Influenza Division.

The flu vaccine is generally most effective in young, healthy people under 65. This season, vaccine effectiveness has been highest -- 26 percent -- in those aged six months through 17 years.

Vaccine effectiveness was just 12 percent for ages 18 to 49 years and 14 percent for people age 50 years and older, the CDC said.

The flu season is usually about 13 weeks long. Officials say the current one is being classed as "moderately severe" and is now just over halfway from ending.

The CDC is still recommending that people get a flu shot because it may help prevent severe infections and complications that lead to hospitalization or even death.

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Earthquake in eastern Connecticut is 4th straight day of quakes in area

A 2.2-magnitude earthquake has rattled eastern Connecticut again.

In what's becoming a daily seismic event, the Weston Observatory of Boston College said the earthquake occurred at about 4:40 a.m. Thursday near Plainfield, where previous earthquakes were recorded.

It says two minor earthquakes were recorded on Wednesday and another on Tuesday.

Several were recorded on Monday and last week, too.

The observatory says that while the greatest earthquake activity in the United States is in the west, earthquakes are "quite common" in many areas of the eastern United States, including New England.

Plainfield officials have invited Alan Kafka, director of the observatory, to an informational meeting at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the town's high school.

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Chicago crematorium being investigated after raid finds hundreds of body parts inside

An investigation into the possible illegal selling of human body parts continues after two suburban locations were raided Tuesday.

CBS 2's Brad Edwards reports it is part of a year-long, national investigation.

Sources tell Edwards that at Cremation Services Inc. in Schiller Park they're sifting through hundreds of body parts. The facility was raided by FBI agents on Tuesday, along with an office called the Biological Resource Center of Illinois in Rosemont, a body donation service.

The ventures are owned by Donald Green. Green was seen in a YouTube video that also features Secretary of State Jesse White. His office tells Edwards Secretary White's appearance was never authorized for that video.

A business under the same name was recently raided in Arizona, part of the tentacles in an ongoing investigation that started in Detroit, where a now shuttered east side warehouse was used to house thousands of body parts on ice, allegedly fresh for the black market.

A lawyer for the Biological Resource Center of Illinois released a statement saying, "As part of an ongoing investigation of two former Biological Resource Center of Illinois business associates, the federal government and State of Arizona investigators executed search warrants today at Biological Resource Center of Illinois. We are aware that the two organizations have been under investigation for several months, and we are cooperating with authorities to better understand the issues and provide all requested information to assist in their investigation.

"Biological Resource Center of Illinois remains committed to serving both our donor families and clients by providing safe anatomical material that further medical research, training and education. We are committed to continuing to serve our donor-families and clients with the highest level of integrity and standard of care, as we have done over the last two decades."

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Germany considers implementing 'Jihadist identity cards'

Despite confiscating passports, Germany has found Jihadists have still been able to leave the country to fight and get training abroad by using their Federal identity cards, so the state has proposed to replace them, with specially designed 'Jihadi' cards.

Having an identity document has been compulsory for many Germans since 1938 when the authoritarian Nazi Party introduced papers for adult men and Jews. The identity card programme has since expanded and covers all adult Germans, providing them with a convenient document for quick identification and travel within the European Union open borders area.

Because the cards are valid travel documents, Germany has seen a number of suspected terrorists who have already had their passports revoked easily slip away to Turkey, with whom Germany has a borders agreement. From there, crossing into the Islamic State is relatively easy and can be arranged by any one of a number of smugglers for a small fee.

Jihadists are not the only minority group in German society who could be targeted by the introduction of segregated identity cards. Germany's sizeable population of Kurds, some of whom have travelled back to their homeland to fight against the Islamic State would also be given new cards if they were judged likely to go abroad.

Although the German government supports the Kurds in Iraq with significant deliveries of military weapons and equipment, the Kurdish organisations that actually receive and use the materiel are banned in Germany.

Rather than confiscating the cards completely, which would leave the suspected Jihadists in breach of the identity card law, they will instead be issued with distinctively marked cards. Printed with warnings about the nature of the holder in multiple languages to prevent unauthorised border crossings, the cards will be issued once they have parliamentary appeal, reports .

Going to such efforts to prevent Jihadists from leaving the country may not please everyone. Many have criticised Western nations for the apparently prevalent policy of stopping suspected terrorists of travelling to war-zones, while not keeping them under sufficient surveillance at home.

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The recharged anti-Muslim campaign and the 'war on terror'

If only.

Through this publication and its echoes throughout the media, millions of French citizens are being bombarded by an anti-Muslim campaign that was, until recently, the province of the neo-fascist National Front. These sentiments are being deliberately whipped up to provide a base of support for renewed military operations by French imperialism.

The conduct of the "war on terror" is acquiring ever more openly a racist character.

That the campaign is being very carefully coordinated is evident in the fact that the French government paid for the enormously expanded press run, while leading journals of the French bourgeoisie made it possible: supplied computers, opened its offices to the surviving staff. Prime Minister Manuel Valls dropped by to show his support.

The French government has wasted no time in utilizing the January 7 attacks to promote its war drive in the Middle East. Following Tuesday's 488 to 1 vote in France's National Assembly to extend air strikes in Iraq, French President François Hollande, until recently the most unpopular official in France, appeared on the deck of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to address its crew as they set sail for the Middle East. He cited the events of the previous week, which left 20 dead in Paris, saying the situation "justifies the presence of our aircraft carrier."

The carrier is to join the US military in the Persian Gulf, where American forces are raining bombs down on western Iraq and eastern Syria as part of the war targeting, for the present, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad next in line.

The US-led coalition of imperialist powers and Gulf sheikdoms carried out 18 air strikes on Monday alone. There is little doubt that these bombing attacks slaughter more innocent people every day than the number of people who died in Paris last week, albeit with far less attention from the Western press.

On its way to the Persian Gulf, the Charles de Gaulle will pass along the coast of Yemen, giving the Hollande government the capability to launch air strikes on targets in that country. US and French officials have suggested that Said Kaouchi received military training and instructions in Yemen from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. There have been unconfirmed suggestions in the media that a massive attack on Yemen, either by French warplanes or US drone missiles, or both, is imminent.

The Charlie Hebdo attack is also being used to rapidly escalate the other component of the "war on terror" - the assault on democratic rights at home.

Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, describing the mobilization of 10,000 French troops to stand guard at public transport centers, schools and other supposed targets of terrorist attack, said Tuesday, "This is a military operation like the military operations we conduct abroad," directed at "the same enemy." He added that "today, the new and serious element is that there is no dividing line between the external threat and the internal threat."

While claiming to defend "freedom of speech" at Charlie Hebdo, the French authorities have arrested at least 54 people for "defending terrorism" - that is, for speech, including posts on social media. Four of those arrested are minors, and some have already been convicted and sentenced under legislation that provides for expedited trials.

Alongside the crackdown on public expressions of sympathy with Islamic fundamentalism is the buildup of sweeping police state powers that will be directed not merely at Islamic radicals, but at any opposition to the French bourgeoisie, above all that from the working class.

Valls promised that within three months his government will have drafted new laws on expanded phone-tapping and Internet surveillance, as well as measures to restructure the French educational system and change the country's housing policy (aimed at breaking up Muslim communities in impoverished suburbs around major cities).

Given that France is home to some five million Muslims - the largest Muslim population in Western Europe - these measures are not only anti-democratic and provocative, they are also extremely reckless.

Supporters of the propaganda offensive of the French bourgeoisie proclaim that all criticism of the vile provocations of is an attack on "free speech," and that somehow the mobilization of the resources of the French state to promote the magazine is a defense of democratic rights.

It is one thing to defend the legal right to publish a vicious, racist, right-wing magazine. Marxists oppose the banning even of outright fascist publications by the bourgeois state, because any laws used against the extreme right will be used far more violently against the working class and the left.

It is a far different matter to cover up for, and even glorify, the repulsive political messages of such publications. There is no difference in principle between cartoons distorting and degrading the prophet Muhammad and the anti-black caricatures of the Ku Klux Klan or, for that matter, the anti-Semitic caricatures long popular in the neo-fascist and neo-Nazi camp. This is demonstrated by the logic of French politics, as President Hollande combines solidarity with the anti-Muslim caricatures of Charlie Hebdo with an invitation to Marine Le Pen, leader of the fascist National Front, to a meeting at the Elysée Palace.

The relentless pollution of public opinion and the distortion and misdirection of the natural anger and shock over the Paris massacre reveal the ideological bankruptcy of the French bourgeoisie and of imperialism as a whole. American imperialism justified its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by waving the bloody shirt of 9/11, a pretext that is now completely exhausted.

As they plot new military adventures, assuming the dimensions of a veritable new Crusade, the ruling classes in France and internationally are playing the race card. Inexorably, however, the fundamental class contradictions in all the major capitalist countries will make themselves felt.

The working class must shake off the stultifying effects of the media propaganda barrage and take up the struggle for its independent class interests - the defense of jobs, living standards and democratic rights, and the fight against imperialist war.

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Reddit users describe growing up poor; dumpster diving, syrup sandwiches, stolen clothes

Growing up poor leaves a mark that can't be erased and habits that are hard to break.

Thousands of poor or formerly poor Reddit users discussed their experiences after someone posted a topic asking: "What do insanely poor people buy, that ordinary people know nothing about?"

Commenters described shopping for expired food, Dumpster-diving, and using improvised cleaning products to save money and meet their basic needs.

"Often bakeries will toss out stale breads and things but leave the bag on them," wrote commenter robutmike. "We would get them, dump the breads out of the bags at home into something clean, wash our hands, and have some fancy bread that was still perfectly good. You had to carefully check the bag for punctures of course, unless you were particularly hungry, then you could just remove the portion that was exposed and eat the rest."

"My mom would send my sisters and I to volunteer at the food pantry so we could get the freshest expired food," wrote another commenter, Dharma42. "We would ride along with the organizers of the pantry in a church bus early in the morning and collect day old KFC, pizza hut and any groceries that were past the 'sell by' date."

They also recalled making meals with a bare minimum of cheap, barely palatable ingredients - such as lard or syrup sandwiches.

"One time I also ate noodles covered in hot ketchup," wrote commenter workshits. "It was literally the worst thing."

Some commenters shared tips for finding free food and avoiding hunger pangs.

"Don't eat more than once per day at the same time every day, cause after a week or so of this, your metabolism gets that this is 'food time,' and you won't be so ravenous throughout the day as you would if you were eating small things throughout," wrote commenter Daytimeghosts.

"Keep an eye on the fridge/freezer at your work (if this is applicable for you)," she added. "I have a good visual memory and notice which items have been in there for a month or so. Most of the time, I feel if it's been in there that long, it's 'fair game.' This is the only reason I've had anything to eat this week."

Another Reddit user recalled hunting for loose change to use as spending money.

"When I was poor, I used to take walks every day just to look for change other people had dropped. Car washes and for some reason, gas station parking lots, were like gold mines," wrote commenter happybex. "I would almost get offended when I saw someone drop a quarter and shrug it off. I thought, 'That is an ENTIRE 25 cents, how can you waste it???'"

Many commonplace items are too expensive or unnecessary to buy on a strict budget, some users explained.

"Paper towel?" wrote commenter lookielurker. "I still don't buy it. Never had it growing up. Lots of cleaning rags, but there was no way we were spending money on something just to throw it away. Toilet paper? Stole that sh*t from McDonald's and wasn't aware that 2 ply was even an option when I was a kid."

Many users recalled stealing rolls of toilet paper from public restrooms when they were poor.

"Sometimes we ate the free crackers or condiments from fast food places," robutmike recalled. "We often took a stack of their napkins to use as toilet paper as well."

Others recalled the monotony of eating the same cheap food over and over.

"I spent a good 3 years of my life living off of banquet tv dinners and pot pies from the dollar store," said commenter itzybitzy. "Sometimes we'd get extra lucky and he could splurge on a hungry man or Swanson family meal for the three of us. We cut the mold off of cheese and bread to make it through and ate lots and lots of 50 cent peanut butter."

"I would buy a box of Flanders 'meat' patties from Walmart and eat one per day, mashed and heated up with enough generic corn oil and sugar to bring my calories up to around 1100/day," recalled commenter poor_prof_throwaway.

New clothes aren't a realistic option for poor people, who buy second-hand clothes or look for creative ways to score free clothes.

"I used to have to steal clothes (jackets, gloves, beanies) from the lost and found at school," said commenter satanonaskateboard. "We did one day towards the end of the year where they would line up all the lost clothes/supplies on the lunch tables and you would walk by and claim what you had 'lost.' It was my day of the school year."

Poor kids sometimes go to great lengths to avoid revealing their situation.

"I spent my teenage years hiding the canned government food in our pantry so when my better off friends visited they wouldn't see the plain white canned food with a picture of a pig that just said 'pork,'" recalled commenter YourPoetrySucks. "I remember going to my friends houses who were better off and just admiring their stocked refrigerators and cabinets wondering how they could afford such 'luxury.'"

Some of the most heartbreaking posts described the brief joy commenters felt when they found a $5 bill or the momentary hope offered by other discoveries.

"I found a piece of glass in some kind of jewel shape, at home, and said I though I found a diamond - for a moment I thought I really had," recalled commenter fhcfph. "I was about 5 or 6, a very precocious kid, I knew that diamonds could/should score glass, so I tried it on a piece of glass, and it seemed to make a scratch. I remember vaguely the look on my mum's face as she got excited, she was very young at that time. I think I remember feeling at that time, no this can't be a diamond, and realising my mum really wanted it to be one."

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European Jewish organization petitions EU to allow Jews to carry guns

© AP

A French soldier helps secure the perimeter of a Jewish school in Paris

One of Europe's most prominent Jewish organizations is petitioning the European Union to pass new legislation that would permit Jewish community members to carry guns "for the essential protection of their communities," according to a letter obtained by the .

The European Jewish Association (EJA), which represents Jewish communities across Europe, says that gun license laws must be altered following a string of deadly attacks on Jews in France and other European countries, where anti-Semitism has been growing at an alarming rate.

The recent attacks, including one on a Kosher market that killed four, "have revealed the urgent need to stop talking and start acting" in a way that empowers Europe's Jews, according to a letter sent Tuesday by EJA General Director Rabbi Menachem Margolin to EU leaders.

The EU, which has enacted very stringent gun control laws, should empower and train Jews to be proficient with guns in order to maintain their safety, according to Margolin.

"The Paris attacks, as well as the many challenges and threats which have been presented to the European Jewish community in recent years, have revealed the urgent need to stop talking and start acting," Margolin writes.

"We hereby ask that gun licensing laws are reviewed with immediate effect to allow designated people in the Jewish communities and institutions to own weapons for the essential protection of their communities, as well as receiving the necessary training to protect their members from potential terror attacks."

Margolin told the that he and the EJA have been warning for "a very long time" that anti-Semitism is growing in Europe and that it poses a direct threat to the continent's Jewish population.

There has been a "dramatic increase of anti-Semitism in Europe," Margolin said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "We demanded from the European governments some time ago that action should be taken [and] were not surprised to see the results in Paris."

Many Jews are living in fear and have shunned popular community outposts such as synagogues and kosher markets out of fear of an attack like that in Paris.

"Many people today are not coming to synagogue because of the issue and they'd be more comfortable if they knew people were trained to react in an emergency," Margolin said.

Attacks against Jews have been on the rise, as neo-Nazi parties and other anti-Semitic organizations gain a foothold in some European nations. However, the growth of anti-Semitism has not always been acknowledged by leaders.

"We need to recognize the warning signs of anti-Semitism, racism, and intolerance that once again threaten Europe and our European ideals," Margolin wrote in his letter to the EU.

The situation cannot continue as it is, Margolin insisted.

Jewish community representatives should be armed and on guard at Kosher markets and synagogues, he said.

"We realize that we also have to do something to take responsibility in case it takes too long" for authorities to put the proper defenses into place, Margolin explained.

This would include stationing armed Jewish community members at popular hubs.

Meanwhile, extremists who have travelled to countries such as Syria, where they train alongside the Islamic State and other terror groups, are now returning home to Europe, where they pose a direct threat to Jews, according to the letter

"The European Jewish Association has long and publicly warned European governments of the need to clamp down firmly on any and all acts of terror wherever and whenever they arise," the letter says. "As you know, the danger is that much greater as many Europeans travel abroad to be indoctrinated into radical Islam, before returning to their European homelands to use their militant training to devastating effect."

Any changes to the gun laws can be made in a safe and effective way, Margolin argues.

"Let there be no doubt, we are asking that all weapons will be issued for self-protection only, and to designated personnel that will undergo thorough investigation and training by local authorities," he wrote.

Margolin said that he is currently in negotiations with EU leaders to relax certain gun restrictions, though some remain hesitant to do so.

"Some people are afraid it might bring the situation to be uncontrolled," he said, noting that negotiations on the matter would include ways to ensure Jewish community members are properly trained to use weapons.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that while guns could help Jews defend themselves against an individual attack, only authorities can protect them against a mass attack like those carried out in France.

"As to personally being armed, such a move could help when a Jewish person is threatened by thugs, but won't help if G-d forbid, Charlie-type terror attacks are launched," Cooper said.

"Bottom line: Only the Police and intelligence can protect France's Jews from terrorism," Cooper said, noting that it is expected French authorities will continue boosting defenses. "If the government doesn't, then there is no long range future for Jews there."

"In the meantime, additional steps by the community to train and defend Jews from hate attacks are appropriate, necessary, and prudent," Cooper said. "I pray that all these steps will help."

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Former Guantanamo guard: 'CIA killed prisoners, made it look like suicide'

© Reuters / Stringer / Files

A former Guantanamo Bay prison guard and Marine has spoken to the press for the first time about what he claims were the CIA murders of three problematic detainees, covered up as a triple suicide.

Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Hickman was on duty at the notorious prison camp when the three men died, and insists the official version of events is "impossible," he told .

The three men were Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, 37, from Yemen, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, 30, from Saudi Arabia, and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, 22, also from Saudi Arabia. None of them had been charged with any crime.

He explained in an incendiary interview with that the three men would have had to have committed suicide at exactly the same time in a cellblock where guards check on detainees every four minutes.

"They would have had to all three tie their hands and feet together, shove rags down their throats, put a mask over their face, made a noose, hung it from the ceiling on the side of the cellblock, jumped into the noose and hung themselves simultaneously," he said.

© Reuters / Bob Strong

Hickman added that an inspection of the detainees' cells just a few hours before they supposedly killed themselves revealed nothing that they might have used to kill themselves - such as nooses, rags, or shoelaces.

The former Marine, who first joined up in 1985 and for a while was in a unit attached to the NSA, has been trying to put the nightmare of working at Camp Delta behind him. But when he saw on TV that another inmate had hung himself, he decided to face up to what he had witnessed. He has written a book, , which he hopes will eventually lead to the truth.

Hickman was careful not to name any of the alleged murderers by name in the book, but he still hopes it may trigger a proper investigation into what really happened that night.

"I can't name names. I keep it vague at the end for that reason. I say it was murder, this is the reason why," he said.

On June 9, 2006, Hickman was on guard duty at Camp Delta when he saw a paddy wagon arrive at the high security Alpha Block three times - each time picking up a prisoner and taking them out of the camp.

He saw the police wagon turn left at checkpoint ACP Roosevelt onto a road which only leads to two places - the beach or a CIA holding center, which Hickman and his colleagues nicknamed 'Camp No.'

After this, between 11:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., the paddy wagon came back to Camp Delta - but instead of going to Camp I, it went straight to the medical detainee clinic.

"About 10 minutes later, all the lights come on, like a stadium, and sirens are going off - it's chaos," he said.

All three detainees were dead.

Hickman believes he knows why the authorities at Guantanamo would have wanted to get rid of the three men.

The three men were regular hunger strikers who incited other detainees to do the same - and when prisoners were on hunger strike, it was camp policy said they couldn't be interrogated.

"They had a policy that if a detainee is hunger-striking, he cannot be interrogated. In 2006, they were doing roughly 200 interrogations a week, so any massive hunger-strike would, what they consider, cripple the intelligence value. I believe the number-one mission in JTF-GTMO (Joint Task Force Guantanamo) at the time was, stop the hunger strikes at all costs," said Hickman.

The ex-sergeant said that after the deaths, there were no hunger strikes for a long time.

© Reuters / Mandel Ngan / Pool

Hickman first approached the US Department of Justice in 2009. His claims and those of others at the camp were reported in in 2010. The authorities issued a hasty denial, claiming that Hickman was stationed outside the perimeter and wouldn't have been able to see the entrance to Alpha Block.

But Hickman says that half of his duties were inside the perimeter and half were outside, and that "both positions give me a pretty good view of what happened."

Since then, the truth of what went on at Guantanamo has begun to trickle out. A recent Senate report - which the CIA tried to repress - found that the CIA regularly used torture, violence, and degrading treatment in its interrogation techniques. The report also claims those tactics rarely produced any decent intelligence.

But just after the supposed triple suicide, Rear Admiral Harry Harris attacked the three detainees for daring to take their own lives.

"They are smart. They are creative. They are committed. They have no regard for life, either ours or their own I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us," quoted him as saying.

Hickman's interview comes just days after Republican senators proposed that a moratorium should be placed on the release of all medium- and high-risk detainees, citing danger to the US and its allies, adding that any transfers to Yemen should be barred for two years.

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Hysteria: Parents investigated for neglect after letting their children walk home alone

© Family photo

The Meitiv children outside the National Gallery in Washington this month

It was a one-mile walk home from a Silver Spring park on Georgia Avenue on a Saturday afternoon. But what the parents saw as a moment of independence for their 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, they say authorities viewed much differently.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv say they are being investigated for neglect for the Dec. 20 trek - in a case they say reflects a clash of ideas about how safe the world is and whether parents are free to make their own choices about raising their children.

"We wouldn't have let them do it if we didn't think they were ready for it," Danielle said.

She said her son and daughter have previously paired up for walks around the block, to a nearby 7-Eleven and to a library about three-quarters of a mile away. "They have proven they are responsible," she said. "They've developed these skills."

The Meitivs say they believe in "free-range" parenting, a movement that has been a counterpoint to the hyper-vigilance of "helicopter" parenting, with the idea that children learn self-reliance by being allowed to progressively test limits, make choices and venture out in the world.

"The world is actually even safer than when I was a child, and I just want to give them the same freedom and independence that I had - basically an old-fashioned childhood," she said. "I think it's absolutely critical for their development - to learn responsibility, to experience the world, to gain confidence and competency."

On Dec. 20, Alexander agreed to let the children, Rafi and Dvora, walk from Woodside Park to their home, a mile south, in an area the family says the children know well.

The children made it about halfway.

Police picked up the children near the Discovery building, the family said, after someone reported seeing them.

Police on Wednesday did not immediately have information on the case. But a spokeswoman said that when concerns are reported, "we have a responsibility as part of our duty to check on people's welfare."

The Meitivs say their son told police that he and his sister were not doing anything illegal and are allowed to walk. Usually, their mother said, the children carry a laminated card with parent contact information that says: "I am not lost. I am a free-range kid." The kids didn't have the card that day.

Danielle said she and her husband give parenting a lot of thought.

"Parenthood is an exercise in risk management," she said. "Every day, we decide: Are we going to let our kids play football? Are we going to let them do a sleep­over? Are we going to let them climb a tree? We're not saying parents should abandon all caution. We're saying parents should pay attention to risks that are dangerous and likely to happen."

She added: "Abductions are extremely rare. Car accidents are not. The number one cause of death for children of their age is a car accident."

Danielle is a climate-science consultant, and Alexander is a physicist at the National Institutes of Health.

Alexander said he had a tense time with police on Dec. 20 when officers returned his children, asked for his identification and told him about the dangers of the world.

The more lasting issue has been with Montgomery County Child Protective Services, he said, which showed up a couple of hours after the police left.

Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for CPS, said she could not comment on cases but that neglect investigations typically focus on questions of whether there has been a failure to provide proper care and supervision.

In such investigations, she said, CPS may look for guidance to a state law about leaving children unattended, which says children younger than 8 must be left with a reliable person who is at least 13 years old. The law covers dwellings, enclosures and vehicles.

The Meitivs say that on Dec. 20, a CPS worker required Alexander to sign a safety plan pledging he would not leave his children unsupervised until the following Monday, when CPS would follow up. At first he refused, saying he needed to talk to a lawyer, his wife said, but changed his mind when he was told his children would be removed if he did not comply.

Following the holidays, the family said, CPS called again, saying the agency needed to inquire further and visit the family's home. Danielle said she resisted.

"It seemed such a huge violation of privacy to examine my house because my kids were walking home," she said.

This week, a CPS social worker showed up at her door, she said. She did not let him in. She said she was stunned to later learn from the principal that her children were interviewed at school.

The family has a meeting set for next week at CPS offices in Rockville.

"I think what CPS considered neglect, we felt was an essential part of growing up and maturing," Alexander said. "We feel we're being bullied into a point of view about child-rearing that we strongly disagree with."

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