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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Despite western propaganda, Russia is not in economic crisis

russia capital outflow

78% of 2014 capital outflow was debt repayment

Following the prophecies of doom that were going the rounds in December the rouble appears to have stabilised, the Central Bank's reserves are intact and the government looks calm and in control.

This appearance of calm appears to have annoyed some of the government's Western critics.

The economist Anders Aslund sees it as evidence that "Putin is in denial".

Most remarkably, the Economist sees the government's "Zen-like calm" as "proof" "the economic crisis has officially arrived".

This rather begs the question of what the Economist would make of signs of panic. Would that be proof the crisis is officially over?

Nobody denies Russia faces a difficult year. The sanctions are obliging Russian companies to pay off their foreign debts at the same time as the dollar price of oil - Russia's main export commodity - has halved, making repayment more difficult.

The rouble as a result has come under serious pressure and has halved in value. Investment and spending as a result are being cut back.

The rouble's fall is causing inflation this year to be significantly higher than it has been over the last few years or that the authorities had planned for. This in turn will cause real incomes to drop.

It would be impossible for the economy to avoid a recession in these conditions and the only question is how severe it will turn out to be.

A recession however is not the same as a crisis and as an article by Dr. Constantine Gurdgiev shows, talk of a crisis is overdone.

As we have said before, there is no doubt even in these difficult conditions that Russia will pay its debts. As Dr. Gurdgiev points out, 78% of what is called "capital outflow" from Russia last year was debt repayment.

A significant part of the other 22% (or $33 billion) was remittance payments by foreign workers in Russia to their families located in countries around Russia's periphery like Ukraine.

This is a significant factor in causing Russia's capital outflow, though it is one that is scarcely ever discussed. This article in the Guardian is a rare exception, putting the figure at around $19 billion for 2014. If so, then around 2/3rds of capital outflow minus debt payments is accounted for by foreign worker remittances.

That leaves just $14 billion (less than 10% of the total) to account for all remaining capital outflow, which in a $2 trillion dollar economy ($3.5 trillion calculated on the basis of purchasing power parity) hardly suggests any great rush for the exits.

What the sanctions are doing is forcing Russian companies to pay off their dollar and euro debts more quickly in a way which over the not-so-long-term will improve their balance sheets.

This, together with the advantages that the rouble's devaluation gives domestic producers all but guarantees an eventual return to growth even if oil prices do not rise soon, as they probably will.

It would be a very different matter if there were serious concerns about the ability of Russian companies to pay their foreign debts. That was the case in 2008, when signs of panic were everywhere.

At the height of that crisis in November 2008 the Central Bank was burning through its reserves at a rate of $22 billion a week, whilst Russia's two stock markets, the MICEX and the RTS, crashed with falls on certain days amounting to almost 20%, with trading repeatedly suspended sometimes for days in succession.

There is nothing like that this time since unlike in 2008 there are no doubts about Russian companies' underlying solvency and therefore ability to pay their debts, whilst the authorities this time, having learnt their lessons from what happened in 2008, have provided liquidity support to Russian companies (especially the banking sector) when this has been needed.

The reason therefore for the government's "Zen-like calm" is not because the government or Putin are "in denial" about the situation. It is because the situation does not call for the sort of panic Aslund and the Economist apparently want them to engage in.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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First round-the-world solar flight to begin in February

Solar Impulse 2 aircraft

© REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The dismantled Solar Impulse 2 aircraft is pictured before being loaded into a Cargolux Boeing 747 cargo aircraft at Payerne airport January 5, 2015.

A plane powered by the sun will attempt an unprecedented flight around the world next month, the project's founders said, seeking to prove that flying is possible without using fossil fuel.

Solar Impulse 2 is set to take off from Abu Dhabi with stopovers in India, Myanmar and China before crossing the Pacific Ocean and flying across the United States and southern Europe to arrive back in Abu Dhabi.

On its five-month journey of 35,000 km (22,000 miles), the engines will be powered only by solar energy. The two Swiss pilots will take turns at the controls in the tiny cabin for five consecutive days and nights in the air.

"Miracles can be achieved with renewables such as solar power. We want to show we can fly day and night in an aircraft without a drop of fuel," Bertrand Piccard, one of the pilots and the project's co-founder, told reporters on the sidelines of the World Future Energy summit currently underway in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The plane, which has the weight of a family car (2,300 kg, 5,100 pounds) and a wingspan equal to that of the largest passenger airliners, will take off in late February and return by late July. Its journey will span approximately 25 flight days at speeds between 50 and 100 km (30 to 60 miles) per hour.

Feasibility studies, design and construction have taken 12 years, said Andre Borschberg, the second pilot and co-founder.

"It is not the first solar airplane, however it is the first able to cross oceans and continents," he said.

Piccard said of the challenge: "It is simply the unknown. It is a question of technical reliability, of human weather and it is the challenge of discovery."

If something goes wrong, they will build another aircraft and continue the journey, he said.

"There's a will in humankind to make a better world and find solutions to climate change."

Companies involved in the project include Bayer AG, Solvay, ABB, Schindler, Omega and Abu Dhabi's Masdar.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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The danger of an MH-17 'cold case'

© Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland

Now more than six months after the shoot-down of a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine, the refusal of the Obama administration to make public what intelligence evidence it has about who was responsible has created fertile ground for conspiracy theories to take root while reducing hopes for holding the guilty parties accountable.

Given the U.S. government's surveillance capabilities - from satellite and aerial photographs to telephonic and electronic intercepts to human sources - American intelligence surely has a good idea what happened on July 17, 2014, when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed in eastern Ukraine killing all 298 people onboard.

I'm told that President Barack Obama has received briefings on what this evidence shows and what U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded about the likely guilty parties - and that Obama may have shared some of those confidential findings with the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak when they met on Dec. 24 in Hawaii.

But the U.S. government has gone largely silent on the subject after its initial rush to judgment pointing fingers at ethnic Russian rebels for allegedly firing the missile and at the Russian government for supposedly supplying a sophisticated Buk anti-aircraft battery capable of bringing down the aircraft at 33,000 feet.

Since that early flurry of unverified charges, only snippets of U.S. and NATO intelligence findings have reached the public - and last October's interim Dutch investigative report on the cause of the crash indicated that Western governments had not shared crucial information.

The Dutch Safety Board's interim report answered few questions, beyond confirming that MH-17 apparently was destroyed by "high-velocity objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside." Other key questions went begging, such as what to make of the Russian military radar purporting to show a Ukrainian SU-25 jetfighter in the area, a claim that the Kiev government denied.

Either the Russian radar showed the presence of a jetfighter "gaining height" as it closed to within three to five kilometers of the passenger plane - as the Russians claimed in a July 21 press conference - or it didn't. The Kiev authorities insisted that they had no military aircraft in the area at the time.

But the 34-page Dutch report was silent on the jetfighter question, although noting that the investigators had received Air Traffic Control "surveillance data from the Russian Federation." The report also was silent on the "dog-not-barking" issue of whether the U.S. government had satellite surveillance that revealed exactly where the supposed ground-to-air missile was launched and who may have fired it.

The Obama administration has asserted knowledge about those facts, but the U.S. government has withheld satellite photos and other intelligence information that could presumably corroborate the charge. Curiously, too, the Dutch report said the investigation received "satellite imagery taken in the days after the occurrence." Obviously, the more relevant images in assessing blame would be aerial photography in the days and hours before the crash.

In mid-July, eastern Ukraine was a high priority for U.S. intelligence and a Buk missile battery is a large system that should have been easily picked up by U.S. aerial reconnaissance. The four missiles in a battery are each about 16-feet-long and would have to be hauled around by a truck and then put in position to fire.

The Dutch report's reference to only post-crash satellite photos was also curious because the Russian military released a number of satellite images purporting to show Ukrainian government Buk missile systems north of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk before the attack, including two batteries that purportedly were shifted 50 kilometers south of Donetsk on July 17, the day of the crash, and then removed by July 18.

Russian Claims

Russian Lt. Gen. Andrey Kartopolov called on the Ukrainian government to explain the movements of its Buk systems and why Kiev's Kupol-M19S18 radars, which coordinate the flight of Buk missiles, showed increased activity leading up to the July 17 shoot-down.

The Ukrainian government countered these questions by asserting that it had "evidence that the missile which struck the plane was fired by terrorists, who received arms and specialists from the Russian Federation," according to Andrey Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine's Security Council, using Kiev's preferred term for the rebels.

Lysenko added: "To disown this tragedy, [Russian officials] are drawing a lot of pictures and maps. We will explore any photos and other plans produced by the Russian side." But Ukrainian authorities have failed to address the Russian evidence except through broad denials.

On July 29, amid escalating rhetoric against Russia from U.S. government officials and the Western news media, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity called on President Obama to release what evidence the U.S. government had on the shoot-down, including satellite imagery.

"As intelligence professionals we are embarrassed by the unprofessional use of partial intelligence information," the group wrote. "As Americans, we find ourselves hoping that, if you indeed have more conclusive evidence, you will find a way to make it public without further delay. In charging Russia with being directly or indirectly responsible, Secretary of State John Kerry has been particularly definitive. Not so the evidence. His statements seem premature and bear earmarks of an attempt to 'poison the jury pool.'"

However, the Obama administration failed to make public any intelligence information that would back up its earlier suppositions. In early August, I was told that some U.S. intelligence analysts had begun shifting away from the original scenario blaming the rebels and Russia to one focused more on the possibility that extremist elements of the Ukrainian government were responsible.

A source who was briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that they had found no evidence that the Russian government had given the rebels a BUK missile system. Thus, these analysts concluded that the rebels and Russia were likely not at fault and that it appeared Ukrainian government forces were to blame, although apparently a unit operating outside the direct command of Ukraine's top officials.

The source specifically said the U.S. intelligence evidence did not implicate Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko or Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk but rather suggested an extremist element of the armed forces funded by one of Ukraine's oligarchs. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Flight 17 Shoot-down Scenario Shifts"and "Was Putin Targeted for Mid-air Assassination?"]

But then chatter about U.S. intelligence information on the shoot-down faded away. When I recently re-contacted the source who had been briefed by these analysts, the source said their thinking had not changed, except that they believed the missile may have been less sophisticated than a Buk, possibly an SA-6.

What was less clear was whether these analysts represented a consensus view within the U.S. intelligence community or whether they spoke for one position in an ongoing debate. The source also said President Obama was resisting going public with the U.S. intelligence information about the shoot-down because he didn't feel it was ironclad.

A Dangerous Void

But that void has left the debate over whodunit vulnerable to claims by self-interested parties and self-appointed experts, including some who derive their conclusions from social media on the Internet, so-called "public-source investigators." The Obama administration also hasn't retracted the early declarations by Secretary Kerry implicating the rebels and Russia.

Just days after the crash, Kerry went on all five Sunday talk shows fingering Russia and the rebels and citing evidence provided by the Ukrainian government through social media. On 's "Meet the Press," David Gregory asked, "Are you bottom-lining here that Russia provided the weapon?"

Kerry: "There's a story today confirming that, but we have not within the Administration made a determination. But it's pretty clear when - there's a build-up of extraordinary circumstantial evidence. I'm a former prosecutor. I've tried cases on circumstantial evidence; it's powerful here." [See Consortiumnews.com's "Kerry's Latest Reckless Rush to Judgment."]

But some U.S. intelligence analysts soon offered conflicting assessments. After Kerry's TV round-robin, the reported on a U.S. intelligence briefing given to several mainstream U.S. news outlets. The story said, "U.S. intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. U.S. officials said it was possible the SA-11 [a Buk anti-aircraft missile] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems." [See Consortiumnews.com's "The Mystery of a Ukrainian 'Defector.'"]

In October, Der Spiegel reported that the German intelligence service, the BND, had concluded that Russia was not the source of the missile battery - that it had been captured from a Ukrainian military base - but still blaming the rebels for firing it. The BND also concluded that photos supplied by the Ukrainian government about the MH-17 tragedy "have been manipulated," Der Spiegel reported.

And, the BND disputed Russian government claims that a Ukrainian fighter jet had been flying close to MH-17 just before it crashed, the magazine said, reporting on the BND's briefing to a parliamentary committee on Oct. 8, which included satellite images and other photography. But none of the BND's evidence was made public - and I was subsequently told by a European official that the evidence was not as conclusive as the magazine article depicted. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Germans Clear Russia in MH-17 Case."]

So, it appears that there have been significant disagreements within Western intelligence circles about precisely who was to blame. But the refusal of the Obama administration and its NATO allies to lay their evidence on the table has not only opened the door to conspiracy theories, it has threatened to turn this tragedy into a cold case with the guilty parties - whoever they are - having more time to cover their tracks and disappear.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Israeli mafia lobbying member-states to cut funding to ICC

Israel is lobbying member-states of the International Criminal Court to cut funding for the tribunal in response to its launch of an inquiry into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, the country's foreign minister said on Sunday.

The ICC did not immediately respond to the news, but experts thought it unlikely that the lobbying effort was likely to persuade the countries that contribute most to the court to reduce their funding.

Israel, which like the United States does not belong to the ICC, hopes to dent funding for the court that is drawn from the 122 member-states in accordance with the size of their economies, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.

"We will demand of our friends in Canada, in Australia and in Germany simply to stop funding it," he told Israel Radio. Officials told Reuters the lobbying effort would also target Japan, whose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is visiting Israel.

"This body represents no one. It is a political body," Lieberman said, adding that he would raise the matter with visiting Canadian counterpart John Baird on Sunday.

A loss of funding would exacerbate the court's already serious financing problems. Last week, Reuters reported that the unexpected arrival of an indicted defector from Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda would put prosecutors under severe financial strain.

The overwhelming bulk of the court's funding comes from the advanced economies of Europe and North Asia. Japan is the largest contributor, giving 20.4 million euros in 2014, followed by Germany which gave 13.5 million.

France, Britain and Italy are also major contributors to the ICC's budget, which will rise 7 percent to 141 million euros in 2015. Canada contributed 5.6 million.

But even countries that were traditionally close to Israel were unlikely to renege on their treaty commitments to fund the ICC, said Kevin Jon Heller, professor of law at London's School of Oriental and African Studies.

"Germany is probably the least likely country in the world to go against the ICC no matter how supportive of Israel it has traditionally been," he added. "It was one of the very leading states in the creation of the ICC."

ICC prosecutors said on Friday they would examine "in full independence and impartiality" crimes that may have occurred in the Palestinian territories since June 13 last year. This allows the court to delve into the war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza in July-August 2014 that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis.

Islamist group Hamas, which is deemed a terrorist group by Israel and the West, on Saturday welcomed the ICC inquiry and said it was prepared to provide material for complaints against the Jewish state.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Netanyahu and Europe's far right find common ground

Israel has been having its own internal debate about the significance of the Paris killings this month, with concerns quite separate from those being expressed in Europe.

While Europeans are mired in debates about free speech and the role of Islam in secular societies, Israelis generally - and their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in particular - view the attacks as confirming Israel's place as the only safe haven for Jews around the world.

The 17 deaths in Paris have reinforced Israeli suspicions that Europe, with its rapidly growing Muslim population, is being dragged into a clash of civilisations that it is ill-equipped to combat. More specifically, the targeting of a kosher supermarket that killed four Jews has heightened a belief that Jews outside Israel are in mortal danger.

If surveys are to be believed, such anxieties are shared in Europe's Jewish communities. One published last week found that 56 per cent of British Jews think anti-semitism in Britain now is comparable to the 1930s.

As one calmer Israeli analyst pointed out, the findings suggested "a disconnect from reality which borders on hysteria".

Such fears have been stoked by images like the one posted on Facebook last week by the Israeli embassy in Dublin, showing the Mona Lisa wearing a hijab and carrying a large rocket. The line underneath read: "Israel is the last frontier of the free world."

In similar vein, the Arab affairs correspondent on Israel's Channel 10 broadcast a fear-mongering "investigation" from London supposedly proving that the city was overrun with jihadis.

The hysteria is echoed by Israeli politicians, not least Mr. Netanyahu. Since the Paris attacks, he has repeated warnings of a "poisonous" Islam conquering the West - ignoring the reality that Europe, including France, is far safer for Jews than Israel has proved.

Politicians on both the left and right have parroted his message that European Jews know "in their hearts that they have only one country". Israel apparently persuaded the families of the four Jewish victims of that: they were flown to Israel to be buried in Jerusalem.

In contrast, the burial in Paris of Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim policeman also killed by the gunmen, sent a message of French unity, noted a French Jewish leader. This was the moment, he added, for his community to say: "We will be buried here, just like everyone else. We are French and we have not given up."

Mr. Netanyahu has other ideas. At a time when the number of Jewish migrants from France is already rocketing, he has established a ministerial committee to find ways to induce yet more to come to Israel.

It was widely reported in Israel that the French president, Francois Hollande, had appealed to Mr. Netanyahu not to participate in the solidarity rally in Paris a week ago, fearful that he would use the occasion to exacerbate tensions in France. Mr. Netanyahu ignored the request.

He had good reason to want to be there, not least to grandstand with world leaders during Israel's election campaign. In addition, proselytising for his claim that the so-called Judeo-Christian West is on a collision course with Islam usefully places him on the side of the angels as he tries to build a Greater Israel, crushing Palestinian ambitions for statehood.

But it would be wrong to view Mr. Netanyahu's argument as solely opportunistic. It is underpinned by an authentic worldview, even if one with paradoxical antecedents.

His approach is embodied in recent efforts - delayed because of the election - to pass a basic law defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. That would crown Mr. Netanyahu leader of Jews worldwide rather than of Israeli citizens, a fifth of whom are Palestinian.

Such a conception of citizenship and nationhood is based on ethnicity, not territory. It opposes multiculturalism, believing instead that loyalty to the state derives from a tribal attachment rather than a civic one. It stands in stark opposition to most European countries' notions of citizenship.

As a result, the Israeli leadership assumes that all Palestinians, including those who are Israeli citizens, cannot be trusted and that there can never be real peace in the region. That is why Israel has been building iron walls everywhere to create a fortress Jewish state.

But the logical corollary is that Jews too cannot be loyal to the other states they live in, such as France. In Mr. Netanyahu's conception, a Jew's primary bond should be to their "true home": the Jewish state of Israel.

Paradoxically, that view is shared by Europe's far-right, including groups like France's National Front, whose popularity has been growing on the back of attacks like the one in Paris. They argue that minorities are inherently suspect and that Europe is better off without them.

In this regard, Mr. Netanyahu and the far-right share much common ground. He wants a Europe free of Jews - as well as Muslims who undermine Europe's support for Israel - because he thinks that is in Jewish interests. The far-right wants the same because it believes it will be in the interests of a supposed "native" white majority.

One Israeli commentator noted pointedly that Israeli politicians like Mr. Netanyahu were helping to "finish the job started by the Nazis and their Vichy collaborators: making France Judenrein".

In calling for Jews to flee after the Paris attacks, Mr. Netanyahu is bolstering the dangerous arguments of Europe's far-right.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Supernova mystery found at the bottom of the sea


© Discovery News

One of the least likely places you might think astronomers would learn about ancient supernovae is at the bottom of the ocean, but in new research scientists have done just that.

Through the careful analysis of ocean sediment, tiny particles that originated from deep space have settled on the seabed, locking the chemical secrets to supernova processes that would have otherwise remained a mystery.

"Small amounts of debris from these distant explosions fall on the earth as it travels through the galaxy," said lead researcher Anton Wallner, of the Australian National University.

"We've analyzed galactic dust from the last 25 million years that has settled on the ocean and found there is much less of the heavy elements such as plutonium and uranium than we expected."

Supernovae are powerful explosions triggered when massive stars reach the ends of their lives. During these powerful events, many elements are forged, including elements that are essential for life to thrive - such as iron, potassium and iodine.

However, as pointed out by an Australian National University press release, even heavier elements like lead, gold and radioactive elements like uranium and plutonium can be created. But it appears that the formation processes for the heaviest elements are at odds with current astrophysical theory.

Wallner and his team studied samples of sediment from the bottom of a stable area at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. But when measuring the quantities of plutonium-244, a radioisotope that is produced by supernovae, they found something strange in their results - there was 100 time less plutonium-244 than predicted.

Plutonium-244 has a half-life of 81 million years, making it an excellent indicator of the number of supernovae that have exploded nearby in recent galactic history. "So any plutonium-244 that we find on earth must have been created in explosive events that have occurred more recently, in the last few hundred million years," said Wallner.

But the fact that there is less recent deposition of the heaviest of elements, despite the fact that we know supernovae have erupted nearby, suggests a different formation mechanism may be responsible for plutonium-244 and elements like it.

"It seems that these heaviest elements may not be formed in standard supernovae after all," concludes Wallner. "It may require rarer and more explosive events such as the merging of two neutron stars to make them."

This research has been published in

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Speculation rages about dead in Greek mystery tomb


© Greek Ministry of Culture

Stabbed to death: A bone with cut marks belonging to the 35-year-old male.

The surprise announcement on Monday that at least five corpses lay buried in the Alexander the Great era tomb in Amphipolis, in northern Greece, has deepened the mystery around the massive and lavishly decorated burial.

As expected, speculation is running wild about who the five people buried there are.

So far, forensic investigation has determined that 157 out of 550 bones found in Greece's largest ancient tomb belong to a woman who was older than 60 years, two men aged 35 and 45, a newborn baby and a cremated adult whose gender could not be verified.

According to Andrew Chugg, author of the remains of the woman in her 60s should be considered the principal burial among those interred.

"It is stated that the skull and mandible and the majority of the larger bones are hers, that her skeleton is the most complete and that her bones were found mainly in the bottom of the cist burial," Chugg told Discovery News.

Chugg, the first scholar who suggested Olympias, Alexander the Great's mother, as the tomb occupant, believes the Persephone mosaic, the caryatids (female statues that serve as architectural support) and the female sphinxes found in the tomb all indicate the original burial was dedicated to a woman.

"A lady in her 60s is consistent with Olympias," Chugg said. "We do not know the year of her birth, but she died in 316 B.C., and she married Philip in about 357 B.C. She would have been 20 when she gave birth to Alexander in 356 BC, if she died at 60."

"There are no other historically prominent female members of the royal family who died in the time frame of the last quarter of the fourth century B.C. as far as we know," he added.

The Olympias hypothesis runs high also on Greek media, although several admit it's a rather puzzling one.

"If indeed the woman in the grave is Olympias and the tomb was erected in her honor, then Macedonians not only violated their customs, but they also did something that seems absurd and unthinkable: They built one of the largest and most elaborate tombs of the known world for a woman, honoring her as a demigoddess or hero," wrote the Greek Reporter, a news agency.

Other historians and archaeologists reject the Olympias guess altogether.

"Inscriptions are very clear and several indicate Olympias was buried at Pydna - so if she is in the tomb she would have to be the badly damaged bones with no sex determined," classical archaeologist Dorothy King told Discovery News.

While it is almost impossible to make guesses about the newborn baby and the cremated adult whose sex could not be determined, speculations abound on the two men.

The fact that both suffered from degenerative osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, and spondylitis, which causes inflammation in the spine or vertebrae, has prompted many to suggest they could have been related.

The older man had injuries that had healed, while the younger one was murdered, probably with a knife, as the cut marks in his left chest show.

Philip III Arrhidaeus, Alexander's half-brother, who assumed the throne after Alexander's death with his wife Eurydice II, is a likely candidate, according to King.

"Philip III Arrhidaeus was murdered and is the right age for one of the men," she writes in her blog.

King believes there is a copying mistake in the sources stating that Philip and Eurydice are buried at Vergina.

"Most likely Philip III and Eurydice II were buried at Amphipolis," she said.

Indeed, Amphipolis is where Philip and Eurydice were imprisoned. Philip III was then stabbed on the orders of Olympias, while Eurydice was forced to commit suicide.

The age and condition of the individuals buried in the massive tomb has played a key role in the Amphipolis heated guessing game. It ruled out candidates such as Roxane, Alexander the Great's wife, Cleopatra, the daughter of Olympias, and Hephaestion, Alexander's close friend who died - not stabbed - at 32.

"The bottom line is not just any noble could have built this sort of tomb," King said.

She noted the Argead Dynasty, the ruling dynasty of Macedonia from about 700 to 310 BC, had strong ties to Amphipolis for centuries - Alexander I famously defeated the Persians there.

Other scenarios are also possible. According to Chugg, the cist tomb and its burials could be a re-use of an already robbed tomb in the Roman period, subsequently again raided and disturbed by robbers. In this view, the few fragments found of an adult cremation could in fact be the original occupant.

"However, this explanation makes it difficult to account for the elaborate sealing of a robbed out tomb in the Roman period," Chugg said.

According to Theodore Antikas, head of the Vergina Excavation Anthropological Research Team, who was not involved in the Amphipolis project, all speculations are premature.

"No one can offer a guess on the identity of the individuals and/or any genetic relationship of the two males. Only DNA can do that," he told Discovery News.

Further analysis, including radio carbon and genetic testing, will be carried out in the next months.

The Culture Ministry specified that investigation on the mysterious bones is part of a broader research program, which includes the analysis of about 300 skeletons, coming from the area of Amphipolis and covering the period from 1000 BC to 200 BC.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Western politics of high-octane emotion

French President François Hollande welcomes US Secretary of State Kerry before their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, January 16, 2015.

So America's top diplomat John Kerry wants to give France "a big hug" to condole over the recent spate of alleged terror attacks in that country. Speaking in Paris while laying a wreath for the 17 victims of violence, Kerry said that "America feels the pain of our oldest ally."

Kerry's words, accompanied by James Taylor's mawkish song 'You've Got a Friend', is typical of the new politics of high-octane emotion that is inducing people to take leave of their senses.

Since the violent attacks that hit Paris last week, the French authorities have orchestrated full-court national and international mourning. Massive marches for "unity" and "free speech", candlelit vigils, medal-of-honor ceremonies, and somber eulogies and paeans to "French values" - all such events and media coverage have sought to bolster the support for state authorities.

The trouble with this "high-octane emotional politics" is that it stupefies the public from asking some very necessary hard questions of the authorities. By buying into weeping and self-indulgence, the public are at risk of being manipulated like never before.

Just as John Kerry was offering a big hug "to all of France", the US government this week announced a significant step-up in its military involvement in Syria. The Pentagon unveiled plans to send 500 military personnel to train "moderate rebels" to fight against the elected government forces of President Bashar al Assad.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are to provide the US with training grounds on their territories to furnish a "new rebel army" of 15,000 fighters. The previous "moderate rebels" became subsumed into the ranks of the extremist Al Nusra and ISIS, taking their American weapons with them.

It is widely acknowledged, even in the Western mainstream media, that the conflict in Syria has fueled extremism across the Middle East, which is finding its way into Europe. As troops go on high-alert counter-terror operations in France and Belgium this weekend, there is an unequivocal correlation between the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Iraq - and new threats of terrorism in Europe.

The latest troop dispatch by the US to train "rebels" in Syria will inevitably lead to more conflict and terrorism. So much for John Kerry's big hug and emotive pleas of "you've got a friend". Kerry is like an arsonist paying his respects to families of charred victims.

That conclusion should be a no-brainer. But as the masses are swooning with emotion - and a lot of that crocodile tears too - some basic facts become blinded, conveniently for the authorities.

One basic fact is that the Western states' covert war for regime change in Syria is criminal and in violation of several international laws. Western political leaders crying over victims in Paris should be prosecuted for war crimes from their four-year-long military adventurism in Syria involving proxy extremist networks. These terror networks are feeding directly back into European societies. American and Western media deception of "training moderate rebels" should be dismissed with the contempt that it deserves. Washington and its European allies are up their necks with terror networks.

Days after the apparent terror killings in Paris, French President Francois Hollande made one of many emotive speeches that week proclaiming the supposed virtues of Western values - while on board the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle. The largest vessel in the French fleet was then deployed to join NATO forces in the Persian Gulf to step up bombing campaigns in Syria and Iraq "to defeat terrorism".

With tears running down the nation's cheeks, the French authorities are thus stoking more violence in the Middle East than they have already done along with their Western allies. How crass can it get? But in the new lachrymose politics of emotions, the public surrenders to the crassness.

However, it is precisely at this juncture that we need to avoid emotional over-reaction and instead to pursue rational, critical questions. As several respected commentators have already noted there are gaping doubts in the official French version of what took place in Paris last week.

Michel Chossudovsky has pointed out that the French police chief, Elric Fredou, who was looking into the attack on the Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo, in which 12 people were killed, was himself found dead in an apparent suicide on the night following that incident. The timing is highly suspicious, but the wider public, misled by the non-inquiring media, appear to be disinterested in the circumstances of the police commissioner's untimely death. Was it really suicide? Was he being shut-up over damaging revelations about who were the real perpetrators of the attack on Charlie Hebdo?

Paul Craig Roberts has also pointed out several incongruities in the official narrative, including the way that the French state security forces executed the Kouachi brothers and the kosher supermarket gunman Amedy Coulibaly, instead of capturing them, thus removing any possibility for the public to hear their accounts. Were they set up by French military intelligence to take the rap for the earlier terror attacks? Roberts notes that the professional behaviour of the masked gunmen in the Paris attacks does not match the bumbling behavior of the Kouachis at the later, fatal shoot-out.

Also, as Peter Koenig recently argued, the spate of French alleged terror attacks, as well as the recent fatal incident in Belgium this weekend, is being used as a "shock and awe" device to manufacture public opinion into accepting more coercive state police powers and foreign military interventions - the very policies that are fueling terrorism.

Western governments and their pliable news media are audaciously playing politics with public emotions. Proven Western state involvement in Middle East conflicts and false flag terrorism needs to be rigorously interrogated and exposed more than ever.

But the public seems too occupied shedding tears, singing the Marseilles, and accepting big hugs from the likes of John Kerry, to otherwise be able to think straight and to hold the authorities to account. Ironically, in the political climate of high-octane emotions, the people are turning for protection from the very authorities who are placing them in increasing danger.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Another face of the tyrannical police state: Your home is your prison

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If they were moved all at once, they could almost replace the population of Jamaica (2.7 million) and they would leave Qatar, Namibia, Macedonia, or Latvia swimming in extra people. I'm talking about the incarcerated in America -- an estimated 2.4 million people at any moment in "1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 2,259 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,283 local jails, and 79 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories." That's just about one of every 100 Americans, more than 60% of whom are people of color. Add in another almost five million on probation or in some way under the supervision of the criminal justice system and you've reached about seven million , the equivalent of the population of Serbia or Paraguay. In other words, a reasonably sized nation of prisoners.

Not surprisingly, that's also the largest prison population on Earth. No other country comes close. Put another way, on any day of your choice, the United States, with 5% of the world's population, has close to 25% of the people imprisoned on this planet. That population, by the way, has risen by 700% since 1970, a tidal movement for incarceration that only in recent years has shown small signs of finally ebbing. In short, state by state or as a country, the U.S. leaves the rest of the world in the dust. (USA! USA!)

And that's just to scratch the surface of what, if we were being honest, would have to be called the American Gulag, a vast carceral archipelago that no other country can match and into which millions of human beings are simply deep-sixed. The urge to reform such a system should be applauded, but as with so many "reforms" in our era, the latest "alternative" forms of confinement may, in the end, only be extending and expanding the prison system into other parts of American life. It may, suggests Maya Schenwar, editor-in-chief of Truthout and author of the new book Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better , ensure that new concepts of how to lock down America are coming to a neighborhood near you. Tom

Your Home Is Your Prison

How to Lock Down Your Neighborhood, Your Country, and You

By Maya Schenwar

On January 27th, domestic violence survivor Marissa Alexander will walk out of Florida's Duval County jail -- but she won't be free.

Alexander, whose case has gained some notoriety, endured three years of jail time and a year of house arrest while fighting off a prison sentence that would have seen her incarcerated for the rest of her life -- all for firing a warning shot that injured no one to fend off her abusive husband. Like many black women before her, Alexander was framed as a perpetrator in a clear case of self-defense. In November, as her trial date drew close, Alexander accepted a plea deal that will likely give her credit for time served, requiring her to spend "just" 65 more days in jail. Media coverage of the development suggested that Alexander would soon have her "freedom," that she would be "coming home."

Many accounts of the plea deal, however, missed what Alexander will be coming home to: she'll return to "home detention" -- house arrest -- for two years.

In other words, an electronic monitor, secured around her ankle at all times, will track her every movement. Alexander will also be paying $105 per week to the state in monitoring fees, as is the custom in Florida and more than a dozen other states.

Such a situation is certainly preferable to being caged in a prison cell. However, does Alexander's release -- and that of others in her shoes -- mean freedom? In reality, an ever-growing number of cages are proliferating around us, even if they assume forms that look nothing like our standard idea of a cage.

As mass incarceration is falling out of fashion -- it's been denounced by figures across the political spectrum from Eric Holder to Newt Gingrich -- a whole slate of "alternatives to incarceration" has arisen. From electronic monitoring and debilitating forms of probation to mandatory drug testing and the sort of "predictive policing" that turns communities of color into open-air prisons, these alternatives are regularly presented as necessary "reforms" for a broken system.

It's worth remembering, however, that when the modern prison emerged in the late eighteenth century, it, too, was promoted as a "reform," a positive replacement for corporal or capital punishment. Early prison reformers -- many of them Quakers bent on repentance and redemption -- suggested that cutting people off from the rest of the world would bring them closer to God. (The word "penitentiary" comes, of course, from "penitence.")

An oppressive version of surveillance played a central role in this vision, as in British reformer Jeremy Bentham's famed Panopticon, a model prison in which inspectors would be able to view prisoners at any moment, day or night, while themselves remaining invisible. If the ultimate Panopticon never quite came into existence, Bentham's idea profoundly influenced the development of the prison as a place in which, for the prisoner, no time or space was inviolable and privacy was a fiction.

As an idea, the Panopticon remains embedded in our notion of state discipline. Now, it is spreading out of the prison and into the neighborhood and the home, which is hardly surprising in a society in which surveillance and monitoring are becoming the accepted norms of everyday life. Like the plans of the early reformers, many current prison "reforms" share a common element: they perpetuate the fantasy that new forms of confinement, isolation, and surveillance will somehow set us all free.

At first glance, these alternatives may seem like a "win-win." Instead of taking place in a hellish institution, prison happens "in the comfort of your own home" (the ultimate American ad for anything). However, this change threatens to transform the very definition of "home" into one in which privacy, and possibly "comfort" as well, are subtracted from the equation. Perhaps the best example is the electronic monitor, an imprisonment device that is attached to the body at all times.

Electronic Monitoring

House arrest has long been used to quell political resistance. By confining people to their homes, repressive governments are able to weaken an oppositional figure's ties to the world, while allowing the authorities to know where the confined person is at every moment. From St. Paul to the deposed pro-democracy Iranian president Mohammad Mosaddegh, Galileo to Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi, dissidents and nonconformists have long watched their homes become their prisons.

However, the rise of new technologies -- in particular, electronic monitoring -- has allowed the practice of home confinement to become widespread. Nowadays, if you're under house arrest, there are no longer armed guards circling the premises. Instead, the "guards" are satellites, their gaze always present, and they don't even blink.

Appropriately enough, electronic monitoring was introduced in 1984. Since then, it has been used for an ever-expanding range of purposes, including pretrial confinement, parole, and probation, or simply as a punishment in and of itself. Monitoring has put new populations under state control, expanding the range of people who are confined in this country. According to an analysis in the Journal of Law and Policy, most of those placed on electronic monitors haven't committed serious or violent offenses and, were it not for monitoring, "at least some of these populations would not in fact be incarcerated or otherwise under physical control."

In prison, the loss of one's civil liberties is glaringly apparent. The strip search, the cell sweep, and the surveillance of letters, phone calls, and visits are givens. For those whose homes have been "prisonized," however, basic constitutional rights also crumble. Probationers and monitorees are subject to warrantless searches and drug tests; probation officers have ready access to their homes. In fact, though seldom thought of this way, the ankle monitor is essentially a constant, warrantless search.

As research scholar James Kilgore notes, for those being monitored, "the default position in most instances is house arrest" and therefore they're often more restricted than their counterparts in jails and prisons. Incarcerated people have daily quotas for calories and are usually granted a certain amount of outdoor exercise time (however miserable the food or outdoor facilities may be). Under house arrest, neither of those protections apply. Similarly, prisoners are usually granted the right to access legal materials; this guarantee is not a given for monitored people.

Even probation officers have acknowledged how monitoring -- both the actual physical confinement and the constant knowledge of being watched -- seeps into each moment of a confined person's daily life. A Department of Justice study , for example, found that, with the visible ankle monitor acting as a "scarlet letter," those permitted to go to work had a difficult time finding or holding jobs. That's a problem in itself, since it's well known that gaining employment is a crucial step in avoiding future offenses. Full-scale house arrest, however, locks people into a life of stasis and boredom, inhibiting their ability to connect with loved ones or form new bonds -- crucial factors in building a sustainable life.

Eighty-nine percent of probation officers surveyed by the Justice Department felt that "offenders' relationships with their significant others changed because of being monitored." Both officers and those monitored observed that the ankle band had a distinct impact on children. As one parent testified, "When it beeps, the kids worry about whether the probation officer is coming to take me to jail. The kids run for it when it beeps." Another noted that his child repeatedly strapped a watch around his ankle "to be like Daddy."

Beyond the physical and emotional burdens, those under monitoring often pay for their confinement in the most literal possible fashion. As Marissa Alexander discovered in Florida, private companies often exact fees from the people they're imprisoning. They average around $10-$15 per day -- in addition to installation costs and fees imposed for drug tests or other "services." Those unable to pay may be re-incarcerated in a cycle that harkens back to debtor's prison.

By the end of her sentence, Alexander will have spent $16,420 on her own imprisonment and constant surveillance.

Probation and Drug Testing

You don't, however, have to be hooked up to a fancy monitoring device to find yourself paying for your confinement. As probation is increasingly contracted out to private companies -- in Georgia, for example, 40% of probation services are privatized -- many non-monitored probationers are subject to steep fees and failure to pay such probation costs might also result in jail time.

This phenomenon, dubbed "offender-funded probation" has recently become ever more popular. A 2014 report by Human Rights Watch revealed that 1,000 courts in at least 12 states now employ it in a twisted mix of budget-tightening, privatization, and corporatization. As author and organizer Kay Whitlock writes, "This industry is built upon disdain for poor and low-income people, and a determination that their wretchedly limited resources should not only support the illusion of administration of justice but simultaneously provide private business owners and courts with new revenue."

With nearly four million people on probation in this country, what an increasingly "offender-funded" system would look like is coming into focus: state coffers would be filled with dollars from those with the most meager resources, while the threat of debtor's prison would hang over the heads of those who don't or simply can't comply. In addition, despite their rhetoric about "correction" and "rehabilitation," for-profit enterprises are actually driven by the distinctly for-profit urge to keep people in the system, while bringing in ever more of them.

In addition to monitoring and probation, mandated drug tests are another standard item that can be turned into a cash cow. Most people ensnared in the criminal justice system (whether incarcerated or on supervised release) are required to undergo regular drug testing, regardless of whether their offense is drug-related. Companies now charge about $25 per test, meaning that a person serving a year-long probation sentence is likely to be saddled with a $1,250 drug-testing bill.

Moreover, drug testing is helping to expand the criminal system into new areas of society. Thanks to decades of drug-war policies, the tests have entered schools, hospitals, workplaces, and the welfare system -- and testing positive can result in serious punishment, including surveillance and confinement. One in five high schools now use drug tests and many punish a "dirty drop" with loss of extracurricular activities or even expulsion from school.

As the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals noted decades ago, "there are few activities in our society more personal or private than the passing of urine." Yet in many circumstances, from workplaces to law enforcement probation visits, people being tested are not only listened to, but also watched as they urinate. The Minnesota Department of Corrections, for instance, gives these instructions to its probation and parole staff: "Staff must... position himself/herself in such a manner as to verify the specimen passes directly from the offender's body into the specimen collection container."

Such drug tests are also used by child protective services agencies during home visits to surveil parents, overwhelmingly mothers of color and particularly black mothers . A failed drug test may result in the removal of children from the home -- regardless of whether the drug use is affecting the parenting abilities of the user.

During the drug-war years, unlike the other ways in which we relate to our bodies and our health, drug use has become fair game for policing and state surveillance. No state intervention can mandate that you stop eating gluten or quit smoking cigarettes or undergo chemotherapy, but we have come to accept the idea that outside authorities may monitor, control, and punish your choice to use certain drugs -- and rampant drug testing is a graphic manifestation of that. Like any health-related blood or urine test, drug testing is not inherently bad, but its widespread, mandatory, and invasive deployment by the state is unique among health procedures. It is the only routine medical test that can land you in jail.

As public approval of drug-war-fueled mass incarceration ebbs, however, it's important to remember that the drug "battlefield" now extends well beyond the prison and that privacy violations once reserved for jails and drug treatment centers are now common in places where privacy was once a given.

Predictive Policing

Perhaps the most prevalent prison-outside-of-prison version of incarceration happens before, not after, arrest. It's what anti-police-violence activist Joseph "Jazz" Hayden calls "open-air prisons" -- that is, the intensification of policing and surveillance in poor neighborhoods of color.

As a growing national movement has made clear recently, in many black and brown communities police are a feared sourceof violence, not an answer to it. A recent Pew survey showed that black Americans are much less likely than whites to believe that police protect them from crime. Only 31% of black respondents believed that the police were "good" or "excellent" at protecting their safety and for just 6% were they "good" at "using the right amount of force for each situation."

Yet when right-wing advocates against mass incarceration opt for a new approach, they tend to support approaches that lead to identifying certain areas (homes, blocks, schools, neighborhoods) as "crime hotspots," and cramming them with law enforcement and surveillance. Right on Crime, a Texas-based "prison reform" group which Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush, and many other conservative luminaries promote, calls for using money saved from reducing prison populations to expand "data-driven policing" and, in the process, increase the use of electronic monitoring and private security firms.

Case in point: a method called "predictive policing" is increasingly gaining favor with right-wing "reformers." Appropriately enough, as reporter Aaron Cantú documents, the very concept was birthed by a private company called PredPol. As the ACLU of Massachusetts notes, this technique "essentially applies the Total Information Awareness approach to policing." That means drawing upon large pools of surveillance, arrest, and other data to develop "algorithms" to determine when and where a crime mighthappen in the future. The use of historical arrest data ensures, of course, that police presences will intensify in places that are already most heavily patrolled and where the most arrests occur: poor neighborhoods of color.

As that ACLU report observes:

"If police arrested lots of bankers and lawyers for cocaine use and for hiring expensive sex workers, we might see predictive policing algorithms sending cops to patrol rich suburbs or fancy hotels in downtown areas. Instead, the algorithms simply reproduce the unjust policing system we've got."

In recent years, as the barriers between local law enforcement and the country's intelligence agencies have broken down, opportunities for race-based targeting within communities have multiplied. For example, under the banner of counterterrorism, national and local outfits have colluded in intensifying the surveillance of Arabs and Muslims. The Electronic Frontier Foundation notes the dissemination of "suspicious activity reports" through national police and intelligence networks with titles like "Suspicious ME [Middle Eastern] Males Buy Several Large Pallets of Water." In this way, "predicting" crime falls in line with racial and religious profiling.

Current applications of the "predictive policing" strategy usually involve expanding surveillance and data collection and increasing the number of police clustered in certain locations. However, the predictive software may be used in more aggressive ways in the future. In Albuquerque, for example, police have begun using the software to flag "bait" items, such as copper wire and cars, placing them in targeted neighborhoods. If the items are taken, arrests can be made on the spot or police can continue to track them (and the people who've taken them), enlarging the area that is directly surveilled.

Even some of the "reforms" being proposed in response to racist police violence carry the potential to be used against the public in ways that expand the bounds of who is watched and when. The body cameras that President Obama proposes all police wear face outward. As constitutional lawyer Shahid Buttar notes, they monitor anyone who crosses their path, including people suspected of no crime, "without the individual basis for suspicion constitutionally required to justify a police search."

Buttar warns that this uptick in public surveillance could actually fuel incarceration. Constant video footage means more opportunities to convict people of the small "crimes" occurring all the time, from jaywalking to selling loose cigarettes to causing a public disturbance. The more convictions, the more potential for punishment -- and the more opportunities for confinement.

Sex Offender Registries

Although the left-leaning among us may respond to secret data collection and hidden cameras with a visceral aversion, some other strategies that cage people are not so firmly installed on the list of liberal no-nos. Electronic monitoring, house arrest, and targeted policing number among these. Another such mechanism generally condoned or even championed by liberals is the sex offender registry. Yet placement on a registry is a sure ticket to imprisonment-outside-of-prison, sometimes for life. In most states, the minimum duration before you can get off a sex offender registry is at least a decade; in some states, it's forever.

In 2013, Sable, an incarcerated Pennsylvania woman and mother of three young children, was gearing up for release. Three years earlier, when she was 24, she had been convicted of "statutory sexual assault" -- carrying on a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy. In some ways, she was looking forward to leaving prison. In others, she was dreading it.

Release, she wrote me, would look nothing like freedom. She would, she explained, be required to avoid cell phones and the Internet. She'd be banned from contact with minors -- including her own children. Beyond these tangible restrictions, she was terrified of a more amorphous kind of imprisonment, what she referred to as "the stigma I will live with for the next 22 years." In Pennsylvania, anyone convicted of a sex offense spends the next quarter-century on a sex offender registry. She anticipated the fear, rejection, or even violence she might face from neighbors, prospective employers, and possible friends.

Sex offender registries are a relatively recent phenomenon. They became widespread in the 1990s in the wake of several high-profile abductions, rapes, and murders of children. Though there's no evidence that the registries actually prevent sexual assault, they now exist in every state and have been codified into federal law.

To question their use is not to diminish the gravity of sexual violence. Rather, their lack of effectiveness in assault prevention, their grounding premise that ongoing punishment is appropriate long after imprisonment has ended, and their gathering up of those convicted of a wide range of offenses -- from sex work (as outlined by scholar Erica Meiners) to the receipt of pornography -- should give us pause, no matter how distasteful many of the registrants' crimes may be.

In numerous states, the whole registry is available for search on the Internet, complete with mug shots and addresses. In some states, that includes juveniles.

Josh Gravens, a prison reform activist and Soros Justice Advocacy Fellow, was arrested at age 12 for having had sexual contact with his eight-year-old sister. He recently wrote in the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange that, despite three and a half years in juvenile prison and four years on parole, "by far the worst penalty I experienced was being placed on the Texas Sex Offender Registry." As an adult, Gravens faced evictions, a near-impossible quest for employment, and a giant, pervasive stigma against him and his family. "As it stands today," he writes, "the registry harms far more children than it protects."

As monitoring and intrusion become more prevalent, they are normalized and become expectable, built into the fabric of how we relate to other human beings. If allowed to expand, sooner or later they also are likely to add categories of people who are not as easily dismissed by mainstream culture.

In a world of electronic monitors, predictive policing, interagency data sharing, hidden cameras, and registries, imprisonment extends not only beyond the walls of the jail or penitentiary, but beyond any contained space. In the new world of incarceration, your house is your prison. Your block is your prison. Your school is your prison. Your neighborhood... your city... your state... your country is your prison.

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Once again latest FBI claim of disrupted terror plot deserves much scrutiny and skepticism

© AP

The Justice Department on Wednesday issued a press release trumpeting its latest success in disrupting a domestic terrorism plot, announcing that "the Joint Terrorism Task Force has arrested a Cincinnati-area man for a plot to attack the U.S. Capitol and kill government officials." The alleged would-be terrorist is 20-year-old Christopher Cornell (above), who is unemployed, lives at home, spends most of his time playing video games in his bedroom, still addresses his mother as "Mommy" and regards his cat as his best friend; he was described as "a typical student" and "quiet but not overly reserved" by the principal of the local high school he graduated in 2012.

The affidavit filed by an FBI investigative agent alleges Cornell had "posted comments and information supportive of [ISIS] through Twitter accounts." The FBI learned about Cornell from an unnamed informant who, as the FBI put it, "began cooperating with the FBI in order to obtain favorable treatment with respect to his criminal exposure on an unrelated case." Acting under the FBI's direction, the informant arranged two in-person meetings with Cornell where they allegedly discussed an attack on the Capitol, and the FBI says it arrested Cornell to prevent him from carrying out the attack.

Family members say Cornell converted to Islam just six months ago and claimed he began attending a small local mosque. Yet The Cincinnati Enquirer could not find a single person at that mosque who had ever seen him before, and noted that a young, white, recent convert would have been quite conspicuous at a mosque largely populated by "immigrants from West Africa," many of whom "speak little or no English."

The DOJ's press release predictably generated an avalanche of scary media headlines hailing the FBI. CNN: "FBI says plot to attack U.S. Capitol was ready to go." MSNBC: "US terror plot foiled by FBI arrest of Ohio man." Wall St. Journal : "Ohio Man Charged With Plotting ISIS-Inspired Attack on U.S. Capitol."

Just as predictably, political officials instantly exploited the news to justify their powers of domestic surveillance. House Speaker John Boehner claimed yesterday that "the National Security Agency's snooping powers helped stop a plot to attack the Capitol and that his colleagues need to keep that in mind as they debate whether to renew the law that allows the government to collect bulk information from its citizens." He warned: "We live in a dangerous country, and we get reminded every week of the dangers that are out there."

The known facts from this latest case seem to fit well within a now-familiar FBI pattern whereby the agency does not disrupt planned domestic terror attacks but rather creates them, then publicly praises itself for stopping its own plots.

First, they target a Muslim: not due to any evidence of intent or capability to engage in terrorism, but rather for the "radical" political views he expresses. In most cases, the Muslim targeted by the FBI is a very young (late teens, early 20s), adrift, unemployed loner who has shown no signs of mastering basic life functions, let alone carrying out a serious terror attack, and has no known involvement with actual terrorist groups.

They then find another Muslim who is highly motivated to help disrupt a "terror plot": either because they're being paid substantial sums of money by the FBI or because (as appears to be the case here) they are charged with some unrelated crime and are desperate to please the FBI in exchange for leniency (or both). The FBI then gives the informant a detailed attack plan, and sometimes even the money and other instruments to carry it out, and the informant then shares all of that with the target. Typically, the informant also induces, lures, cajoles, and persuades the target to agree to carry out the FBI-designed plot. In some instances where the target refuses to go along, they have their informant offer huge cash inducements to the impoverished target.

Once they finally get the target to agree, the FBI swoops in at the last minute, arrests the target, issues a press release praising themselves for disrupting a dangerous attack (which it conceived of, funded, and recruited the operatives for), and the DOJ and federal judges send their target to prison for years or even decades (where they are kept in special GITMO-like units). Subservient U.S. courts uphold the charges by applying such a broad and permissive interpretation of "entrapment" that it could almost never be successfully invoked. As AP noted last night, "defense arguments have repeatedly failed with judges, and the stings have led to many convictions."

Consider the truly remarkable (yet not aberrational) 2011 prosecution of James Cromitie, an impoverished African-American Muslim convert who had expressed anti-Semitic views but, at the age of 45, had never evinced any inclination to participate in a violent attack. For eight months, the FBI used an informant - one who was on the hook for another crime and whom the FBI was paying - to try to persuade Cromitie to agree to join a terror plot which the FBI had concocted. And for eight months, he adamantly refused. Only when they dangled a payment of $250,000 in front of him right as he lost his job did he finally assent, causing the FBI to arrest him. The DOJ trumpeted the case as a major terrorism arrest, obtained a prosecution and sent him to prison for 25 years.

The federal judge presiding over his case, Colleen McMahon, repeatedly lambasted the government for wholly manufacturing the plot. When sentencing him to decades in prison, she said Cromitie "was incapable of committing an act of terrorism on his own," and that it was the FBI which "created acts of terrorism out of his fantasies of bravado and bigotry, and then made those fantasies come true." She added: "only the government could have made a terrorist out of Mr. Cromitie, whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope."

In her written ruling upholding the conviction, Judge McMahon noted that Cromitie "had successfully resisted going too far for eight months," and agreed only after "the Government dangled what had to be almost irresistible temptation in front of an impoverished man from what I have come (after literally dozens of cases) to view as the saddest and most dysfunctional community in the Southern District of New York." It was the FBI's own informant, she wrote, who "was the prime mover and instigator of all the criminal activity that occurred." She then wrote (emphasis added):

As it turns out, the Government did absolutely everything that the defense predicted in its previous motion to dismiss the indictment. The Government indisputably "manufactured" the crimes of which defendants stand convicted. The Government invented all of the details of the scheme - many of them, such as the trip to Connecticut and the inclusion of Stewart AFB as a target, for specific legal purposes of which the defendants could not possibly have been aware (the former gave rise to federal jurisdiction and the latter mandated a twenty-five year minimum sentence). The Government selected the targets. The Government designed and built the phony ordnance that the defendants planted (or planned to plant) at Government-selected targets. The Government provided every item used in the plot: cameras, cell phones, cars, maps and even a gun. The Government did all the driving (as none of the defendants had a car or a driver's license). The Government funded the entire project. And the Government, through its agent, offered the defendants large sums of money, contingent on their participation in the heinous scheme.

Additionally, before deciding that the defendants (particularly Cromitie, who was in their sights for nine months) presented any real danger, the Government appears to have done minimal due diligence, relying instead on reports from its Confidential Informant, who passed on information about Cromitie information that could easily have been verified (or not verified, since much of it was untrue), but that no one thought it necessary to check before offering a jihadist opportunity to a man who had no contact with any extremist groups and no history of anything other than drug crimes.

On another occasion, Judge McMahon wrote: "There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that James Cromitie could never have dreamed up the scenario in which he actually became involved. And if by some chance he had, he would not have had the slightest idea how to make it happen." She added that while "Cromitie, who was desperately poor, accepted meals and rent money from [the informant], he repeatedly backed away from his violent statements when it came time to act on them," and that "only when the offers became outrageously high - and when Cromitie was particularly vulnerable to them, because he had lost his job - did he finally succumb."

This is pre-emptory prosecution: targeting citizens not for their criminal behavior but for their political views. It's an attempt by the U.S. Government to anticipate who will become a criminal at some point in the future based on their expressed political opinions - not unlike the dystopian premise of Minority Report - and then exploiting the FBI's vast financial, organizational, and even psychological resources, along with the individuals' vulnerabilities, to make it happen.

In 2005, federal appellate judge A. Wallace Tashima - the first Japanese-American appointed to the federal bench, who was imprisoned in an U.S. internment camp - vehemently dissented from one of the worst such prosecutions and condemned these FBI cases as "the unsettling and untoward consequences of the government's use of anticipatory prosecution as a weapon in the 'war on terrorism.'"

There are countless similar cases where the FBI triumphantly disrupts its own plots, causing people to be imprisoned as terrorists who would not and could not have acted on their own. Trevor Aaronson has comprehensively covered what amounts to the FBI's own domestic terror network, and has reported that "nearly half [of all DOJ terrorism] prosecutions involved the use of informants, many of them incentivized by money (operatives can be paid as much as $100,000 per assignment) or the need to work off criminal or immigration violation." He documents "49 [terrorism] defendants [who] participated in plots led by an agent provocateur - an FBI operative instigating terrorist action." In 2012, Petra Bartosiewicz in The Nation reviewed the post-9/11 body of terrorism cases and concluded:

Nearly every major post-9/11 terrorism-related prosecution has involved a sting operation, at the center of which is a government informant. In these cases, the informants - who work for money or are seeking leniency on criminal charges of their own - have crossed the line from merely observing potential criminal behavior to encouraging and assisting people to participate in plots that are largely scripted by the FBI itself. Under the FBI's guiding hand, the informants provide the weapons, suggest the targets and even initiate the inflammatory political rhetoric that later elevates the charges to the level of terrorism.

The U.S. Government has been aggressively pressuring its allies to adopt the same "sting" tactics against their own Muslim citizens (and like most War on Terror abuses, this practice is now fully seeping into non-terrorism domestic law: in a drug smuggling prosecution last year, a federal judge condemned the Drug Enforcement Agency for luring someone into smuggling cocaine, saying that "the government's investigation deployed techniques that generated a wholly new crime for the sake of pressing criminal charges against" the defendant).

Many of the key facts in this latest case are still unknown, but there are ample reasons to treat this case with substantial skepticism. Though he had brushes with the law as a minor arguably indicative of anger issues, the 20-year-old Cornell had no history of engaging in politically-motivated violence (he disrupted a local 9/11 memorial ceremony last year by yelling a 9/11 Truth slogan, but was not arrested). There is no evidence he had any contact with any overseas or domestic terrorist operatives (the informant vaguely claims that Cornell claims he "had been in contact with persons overseas" but ultimately told the informant that "he did not think he would receive specific authorization to conduct a terrorist attack in the United States").

Cornell's father accused the FBI of responsibility for the plot, saying of his son: "He's a mommy's boy. His best friend is his cat Mikey. He still calls his mother 'Mommy.'" His father said that "he might be 20, but he was more like a 16-year-old kid who never left the house." He added that his son had only $1,200 in his bank account, and that the money to purchase guns could only have come from the FBI. It was the FBI, he said, who were "taking him somewhere, and they were filling his head with a lot of this garbage."

The mosque with which Cornell was supposedly associated is itself tiny, a non-profit that reported a meager $115,000 in revenue last year. It has no history of producing terrorism suspects or violent radicals.

Whatever else is true, a huge dose of scrutiny and skepticism should be applied to the FBI's claims. Media organizations certainly should not be trumpeting this as some dangerous terror plot from which the FBI heroically saved us all, nor telling their viewers that the FBI "uncovered" a plot that it actually created, nor trying to depict it (as MSNBC's Steve Kornacki did in the pictured segment) as part of some larger plot of international terror groups, at least not without further evidence (and, just by the way, Mr. Kornacki: Anwar Awlaki was not "the leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen," no matter how much repeating that false claim might help President Obama, who ordered that U.S. citizen killed with no due process). Nor should politicians like John Boehner be permitted without challenge to claim that this scary plot shows how crucial is the Patriot Act and the NSA domestic spying program in keeping us safe.

Having crazed loners get guns and seek to shoot people is, of course, a threat. But so is allowing the FBI to manufacture terror plots: in the process keeping fear levels about terrorism completely inflated, along with its own surveillance powers and budget. Ohio is a major recipient of homeland security spending: it "has four fusion centers, more than any other state except California, New York and Texas. Ohio also ranks fourth in the nation (tying New York) with four FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs)."

Something has to be done to justify all that terrorism spending. For all those law enforcement agents with little to do, why not sit around and manufacture plots to justify those expenditures, giving a boost to their pro-surveillance ideology to boot? Media outlets have a responsibility to investigate the FBI's claims, not mindlessly repeat them while parading their alarmed faces and scary graphics.

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

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Trojan hearse: Greek elections and the euro leper colony

Europe is stunned, and bankers aghast, that polls show the new party of the Left, Syriza, will win Greece's parliamentary elections to be held this coming Sunday, January 25.

Syriza promises that, if elected, it will cure Greece of leprosy.

Oddly, Syriza also promises that it will remain in the leper colony. That is, Syriza wants to rid Greece of the cruelty of austerity imposed by the European Central Bank but insists on staying in the euro zone.

The problem is, austerity run wild is merely a symptom of an illness. The underlying disease is the euro itself.

For the last five years, Greeks have been told that, if you cure your disease - that is, if you dump the euro - the sky will fall. I guess you haven't noticed, the sky has fallen already. With unemployment at 25%, with Greek doctors and teachers eating out of garbage cans, there is no further to fall.

In 2010, when unemployment was a terrible 10%, a year into the crisis, the "Troika" (the European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund) told the Greeks that brutal austerity measures would restore Greece's economy by 2012.

Ask yourself, Was the Troika right?

There is a saying in America: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on

Can Greece survive without the euro? Greece is already dead, but the Germans won't even bother to bury the corpse. Greeks are told that if they leave the euro and renounce its debts, the nation will not be able to access world capital markets. The reality is, Greece can't access world markets now: no one lends to a corpse.

There's a way back across the River Styx. But it's not by paddling on a euro.

There's Life after Euro

Many nations do quite well without the euro. Sweden, Denmark and India do just fine without the euro - and so does Turkey, which had the luck to be excluded from the euro-zone. As long as Turks stick to the lira, even Turkey's brain-damaged Islamo-fascist President Tayyip Erdoğan cannot destroy their economy.

Can Greece just dump the euro? They have happy precedents to follow. Argentina was once pegged to the US dollar much as Greece is tied to the euro today. In 2000, Argentines, hungry and angry, revolted. Argentina ultimately overthrew the dollar dictatorship, the IMF diktats and the threats of creditors, and defaulted on its dollar bonds. In the decade since, the Argentine economy soared. Yes, today, Argentina is under attack by financial vultures, but that is only because the nation became so temptingly wealthy.

I was in Brazil when its President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told the IMF to go to hell - and rejected privatization of the state banks and the state oil company, rejected cutting pensions and thumbed his nose at the rest of the austerity nonsense. Instead, Lula created the , a massive pay-out to the nation's poor. The result: Brazil not only survived but thrived during the 2008-10 world financial crisis. Despite pressure, Brazil never ceded control of its currency. (It is a sad irony that Brazil is only now faltering. That's the fault entirely of Lula's successor, President Dilma Rousseff, who is beginning to dance the austerity samba.)

Austerity: Religion, Not Economics

The euro is simply the deutschmark with little stars on it. Greece cannot adopt Germany's currency without adopting Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, as its own.

And Schäuble has determined that Greece must be punished. As my homey Paul Krugman points out, there is no credible economic theory that says that austerity - that is, cutting government spending, cutting wages, cutting consumer demand - can in any way help a nation in recession, in deflation. That's why, in 2009, Obama ordered up stimulus, not a sleeping pill.

But austerity has nothing to do with economics. It is religion: the belief by the stern Lutheran Germans that Greeks have had too much fun, spent too much money, and spent too much lazy time in the sun - and now Greeks must pay a price for their sins.

Oddly, I hear this self-flagellating nonsense from Greeks themselves: we are lazy. We deserve our punishment. Nonsense. The average Greek works more hours in a year than any other worker in the 34 nations of the OECD; Germans the least.

The Euro's Father Describes his Little Bastard

Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, would like to pretend that austerity and the euro are two different things, that you can marry the pretty girl but not invite her ugly sister to the wedding. Apparently, the Syriza chief is blissfully ignorant of the history of the euro. The horror of austerity is not the consequence of Greek profligacy: it was designed into the euro's plan from the beginning.

This was explained to me by the father of the euro himself, economist Robert Mundell of Columbia University. (I studied economics with Mundell's buddy, Milton Friedman.) Mundell not only invented the euro, he also fathered the misery-making policies of Thatcher and Reagan, known as "supply-side economics" - or, as George Bush Sr. called it, "voodoo economics." Supply-side voodoo is the long-discredited belief that if a nation demolishes the power of unions, cuts business taxes, eliminates government regulation and public ownership of utilities, economic prosperity will follow.

The euro is simply the other side of the supply-side coin. As Mundell explained it, the euro is the way in which congresses and parliaments can be stripped of all power over monetary and fiscal policy. Bothersome democracy is removed from the economic system. "Without fiscal policy," Mundell told me, "the only way nations can keep jobs is by the competitive reduction of rules on business."

Greece, to survive in a euro economy, can only revive employment by reducing wages. Indeed, the recent tiny reduction in unemployment is the sign that Greeks are slowly accepting a permanent future of low wages serving piña coladas to Germans on holiday cruises.

It is argued that Greece owes Germany, the IMF and the European Central Bank for bail-out-billions. Nonsense. None of the billions in bail-out funds went into Greek pockets. It all went to bail out Deutsche Bank and other foreign creditors. The EU treasuries swallowed 90% of its private bankers' bonds. Germany bailed out Germany, not Greece.

Nevertheless, Greece must pay Germany back, Mr. Tsipras, if you want to continue to use Germany's currency, that is.

Greece: Goldman Sacked

Greece's ruin began with secret, fraudulent currency swaps, designed a decade ago by Goldman Sachs, to conceal Greek deficits that exceeded the euro zone's 3%-of-GDP limit. In 2009, when the truth came out, Greek debt holders realized they had been cheated. These debt buyers then demanded usurious levels of interest (or, if you prefer, a high "spread") to insure themselves against future fraud. The compounding of this interest premium brought the Greek nation to its knees. In other words, the crimes committed to join and stay in the euro, not Greek profligacy, caused the crisis.

The USA, Brazil and China escaped from depression by controlling their money supply, government spending and currency exchange rates - crucial tools Greece gave up in return for the euro.

Worse, once the Trojan hearse of the euro entered Athens, tourism, Greece's main industry, drained to Turkey where hotels and souvenirs are priced in cheap . This allowed Dr. Mundell's remorseless wage-lowering machine, the euro, to do its work, to force Greece to strip all its workers of pensions and power.

Greece fell to its knees, with no choice but to beg Germany for mercy.

But there is no mercy. As Germany's Schäuble insists, democracy, this week's vote, means nothing. "New elections change nothing in the accords struck with the Greek government," he says. "[Greeks] have no alternative."

Ah, but they do, Mr. Schäuble. They can tell you to take your euro and shove it up your Merkel.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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