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Friday, 23 January 2015

British beach is washed away overnight... then reappears

Porthleven beach

© SWNS.com

The sand on Porthleven beach was washed away by a freaked tide then "brought back" a few hours later.

A British beach which was stripped of all its sand overnight by a freak high tide for the first time in living memory, has miraculously been restored.

Porthleven is a favourite holiday spot for tourists visiting Cornwall and is famed for its pristine golden sands nestled below the quaint seaside town.

But during the recent bad weather so much sand vanished that the once yellow shoreline is now dotted with jagged rocks covered in seaweed and algae.

Overnight on Wednesday a severe high tide removed all the sand - leaving it a rocky not sandy beach.

Photos from the scene show promenade steps that used run down into the lush sand now leading to a sharp drop onto rocks.

An oceanographer from Porthleven, Alan Jorgensen, said that he has never seen the level of sand so low in all his years in the village.

He said: "I am sure it will come back in time but I've never seen it like this before. It was a bit of a surprise to be honest."

Karen Wall, 42, from Porthleven, said: "I've seen it fluctuate, but just going by my mother's wisdom - she's been past that beach every day for 74 years - she's never seen it as bare."

Councillor Andrew Wallis said: "The beach has never had this little sand in living memory.

"This area is quite prone to long shire drift and sometimes it is more extreme than others. This time was definitely on the more extreme side."

However, as locals were scratching their heads as to what had happened the sand was deposited back onto the beach.

Mr Wallis, who lives around the corner from the beach, said that the beach returned "completely naturally" confirming that "Mother Nature" put the sand back, not the council.

Experts calculated that nearly a million tonnes of sand were lost off British beaches last year, with popular beaches in Newquay, Bude and Perranporth also left bare.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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North Dakota pipeline leaked 3 million gallons of brine in oil drilling

Cleanup is underway after nearly 3 million gallons of brine, a salty, toxic byproduct of oil and natural gas production, leaked from a pipeline in western North Dakota, the largest spill of its kind in the state since the current energy boom began.

The full environmental impact of the spill, which contaminated two creeks, might not be clear for months. Some previous saltwater spills have taken years to clean up. A contractor hired by the pipeline operator will be on site Thursday, assessing the damage.

Operator Summit Midstream Partners LLC detected the pipeline spill on Jan. 6, about 15 miles north of Williston and informed North Dakota officials then. State health officials on Wednesday said they weren't given a full account of the size until Tuesday.

Inspectors have been monitoring the area near Williston, in the heart of North Dakota's oil country, but it will be difficult to assess the effects of the spill until the ice melts, said Dave Glatt, chief of the North Dakota Department of Health's environmental health section.

"This is not something we want to happen in North Dakota," Glatt said.

The spill presently doesn't threaten public drinking water or human health, Glatt said. He said a handful of farmers have been asked to keep their livestock away from the two creeks, the smaller of which will be drained.

Brine, also referred to as saltwater, is an unwanted byproduct of drilling that is much saltier than sea water and may also contain petroleum and residue from hydraulic fracturing operations.

The new spill is almost three times larger than one that fouled a portion of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in July. Another million-gallon saltwater spill in 2006, near Alexander, is still being cleaned up nearly a decade later.

Summit Midstream said in a statement Wednesday that about 65,000 barrels of a mix of freshwater and brine have been pumped out from Blacktail Creek. Brine also reached the bigger Little Muddy Creek and potentially the Missouri River.

Glatt said the Blacktail Creek will be completely drained as part of the initial cleanup, but the water and soil will have to be continuously tested until after the spring thaw because some of the contaminated water has frozen. The Little Muddy Creek will not be drained because it is bigger than the Blacktail Creek and the saltwater is being diluted.

"We will be monitoring to see how quickly it gets back to natural background water quality conditions, and we are already starting to see that," Glatt said of the Little Muddy Creek. "It's getting back pretty quickly."

Summit Midstream's chief operating officer, Rene Casadaban, said in a statement that the company's "full and undivided attention" is focused on cleaning up the spill and repairing any environmental damage.

Spokesman Jonathan Morgan did not immediately confirm exactly when the spill began. It also was not clear what caused the pipeline to rupture. Glatt said the company has found the damaged portion of pipeline and it was sent to a laboratory to determine what caused the hole.

North Dakota has suffered scores of saltwater spills since the state's oil boom began in earnest in 2006.

A network of saltwater pipelines extends to hundreds of disposal wells in the western part of the state, where the briny water is pumped underground for permanent storage. Legislation to mandate flow meters and cutoff switches on saltwater pipelines was overwhelmingly rejected in the Legislature in 2013.

Wayde Schafer, a North Dakota spokesman for the Sierra Club, called the brine "a real toxic mix" and "an extreme threat to the environment and people's health."

"Technology exists to prevent these spills and nothing is being done," said Schafer. "Better pipelines, flow meters, cutoff switches, more inspectors - something has got to be done."

Daryl Peterson, a grain farmer from Mohall who has had spills on his property, said the latest incident underscores the need for tougher regulation and enforcement.

"Until we start holding companies fully accountable with penalties, I don't think we're going to change this whole situation we have in North Dakota," said Peterson, a board member of the Northwest Landowners Association.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Koos Jansen: Financial system reset to gold coming soon?

Koos Jansen

Anyone who has been paying attention to the global economy the past years can agree with me our central bankers have conducted miserable monetary policy and have taken the insufficient measures to fight crises. All major economies have embarked in printing unprecedented quantities of money, but the only thing they bought was time. Quantitative easing on such a scale is like kicking the can determined to reach the end of the road. The future looks anything but sanguine.

Where is this going? Are our leaders truly gonna allow for the international monetary system to implode? Is there no plan B? And we are supposed to believe gold isn't of any significance in economics?

In our current highly unstable economic environment the price of gold is relatively low, according to gold proponents like me. In addition, we can see immense flows of physical gold going from West to East that are guaranteed not to return in the foreseeable future. If the price of gold isn't suppressed, my previous two observations can only be explained as physical supply outstripping demand since April 2013 - when the price of gold declined substantially to its current relative low levels. But perhaps there is more than meets the eye.

I would like to share a theoretical explanation for the observations just mentioned, supported by historic diplomatic documents that provide some guidance through the present fog.

Let's start just before gold was removed from the system:

In the sixties France stepped out of the London Gold Pool, as it didn't want to waste any more gold on the war the US was waging against Vietnam. The London Gold Pool was a joint effort by the US, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland and the UK to peg the price of gold at $35 an ounce. But because the US was printing dollars to finance the war in Vietnam - this devalued US dollars - a lot of gold was required to maintain the price at $35. Shortly after France left the Pool it collapsed in March 1968. From the IMF:

While the total number of U.S. dollars circulating in the United States and abroad steadily grew, the U.S. gold reserves backing those dollars steadily dwindled. International financial leaders suspected that the United States would be forced either to devalue the dollar or stop redeeming dollars for gold.

The dollar problem was particularly troubling because of the mounting number of dollars held by foreign central banks and governments: In 1966, foreign central banks and governments held over 14 billion U.S. dollars. The United States had $13.2 billion in gold reserves, but only $3.2 billion of that was available to cover foreign dollar holdings. The rest was needed to cover domestic holdings. If governments and foreign central banks tried to convert even a quarter of their holdings at one time, the United States would not be able to honor its obligations.

And that is exactly what happened; in 1971 the US closed the gold window, no longer could foreign central banks convert dollars into gold (except on the open market). As I've written before: (i) Europe, most notably France was not amused and wanted to revalue gold, (ii) the US was very persistent to completely phase out gold from the monetary system in order to leverage the power of the US dollar hegemony.

I've found documents that connect the past with the present. On February 24, 1970, French President Pompidou met with US President Nixon in Washington DC. The oncoming quotes are from the US minutes of the meeting:

Turning to France, the President [Pompidou] said he wished to emphasize again that - as distinguished from the positions of some of his predecessors in this office - he would not comment on the independent French policy. He might have his own views but he felt that a strong independent France devoted to the same goals as we are is in the interest of the US. A strong Europe in the economic sense might seem not to be in the US interest, in the long term it was. What we need is a better balance in the West. It is not healthy to have just two superpowers; in such a situation there is more chance of a conflict than when there are more centers of power. Greater strength of the European economies, an independent French policy, and, in Asia, a stronger Japan, would eventually make for a more stable world. The position of the U. S. at the end of World War II was not healthy. Twenty-five years had passed and things were changed. This we regarded as a healthy development.

In the final analysis with three billion people on earth if civilization is to survive ... this will be decided by the Soviet Union, by China, and eventually Japan, by Western Europe, by that he meant France, Britain and Germany and the United States. Africa is moving along, but it is a century away.

Latin America is also moving but it is fifty years or more away. In Asia, India and Pakistan will have enormous difficulty in simply keeping pace with their increase in population. We have a great responsibility to use the power we have to build the kind of a world that keeps the forces of expansion in check and thus give the forces of freedom a chance to grow in their own way and not like tin soldiers lined up behind the biggest one.

Pompidou's idea was clearly to spread economic power across the globe for a more balanced, peaceful and prosperous world. We can also read the first signs of a unified Europe between the lines. Pompidou is one of the best forecasters I've ever read, what he said 45 years ago has more or less happened by now. However, Pompidou's ideology could not coexist along the dollar hegemony. The US, therefore, embarked in divide and conquer, a notorious strategy to gain and maintain power. The next quotes are from a telephone conversation on March 14, 1973, between Henry Kissinger, National Security Adviser, and William Simon, Under Secretary of the Treasury:

K: ... I've just been called to the President. Let me tell you - Shultz has sent me a copy of the cable that Volker gave him - that Volker sent him about the interventions, and he has asked for my views. I basically have only one view right now which is to do as much as we can to prevent a united European position without showing our hand.

S: Okay. Well, I interpret that as less intervention, which is a good idea, and I think George will be very happy with that comment. Do as much as we can to prevent a unified European position.

K: I don't think a unified European monetary system is in our interest. I don't know what you think for technical reasons, but these guys are now helping to put it to us.

S: Yes, sir.

K: I don't know whether that's true in the short term, but I'm convinced that that's true in the long.

S: I just agree with you a thousand percent.

K: So I'd rather play with them individually. You know, if it were a question of supporting an individual currency, I'd be much more inclined to do that.

S: Yes, such as the mark.

K: That's right.

S: Yes, sir.

K: Does that make sense to you?

S: Yes it does.

K: You understand, my reason's entirely political, but I got an intelligence report of the discussions in the German Cabinet and when it became clear to me that all our enemies were for the European solution that pretty well decided me.

S: Yes, sir. Well, I pass. I'm going to be talking to George on the telephone.

K: Be careful. Everything in Bonn is tapped.

S: I promise you I will.

Next, from Wikileaks, a report of a meeting held by all European Ministers of Finance about gold, written to the American Ministry Of Foreign Affairs on April 23, 1974 (Europe and the US were debating this issue for a few years):







Now we know what Europe was planning in seventies, this explains a lot better what occurred later on. Remember the Washington Agreement On Gold? Just before the euro was introduced in 1999, all European central banks collaborated in a program called the Central Bank Gold Agreements (CBGA), or the Washington Agreement On Gold, to jointly manage gold sales. (note, Eurozone aggregated gold reserves currently still transcend US reserves)

In 1991 the Dutch central bank (DNB) held 1,700 tonnes in official gold reserves, currently it holds 613 tonnes. When the Dutch Minister Of Finance, J.C. de Jager, was questioned about these sales in 2011 he answered:

Question 6: Can you confirm that since 1991 DNB has sold 1,100 tonnes of the 1,700 tonnes it owned...

Answer 6: Since 1991 DNB sold 1,100 tonnes. At the time DNB determined that from an international perspective it owned a lot of gold proportionally. It decided to equalize its gold holdings relative to other important gold holding nations.

Right, so since the seventies Europe wanted to spread economic power across the globe, replace the dollar as the world reserve currency and sold parts of its official gold reserves "to equalize its gold holdings relative to other important gold holding nations". These types of plans aren't realized overnight; it can take decades, it can even take more decades than estimated. Who knows? We can be in the final stage right now.

Not so long ago I published a Wikileaks cable from 1976 wherein China expresses its particular interest in gold and SDR's. Of course this is all just a theory, but it seems as if the redistribution of the chips, physical gold flowing from West to East, is all part of orchestrated preparations for the next international monetary system, anchored by gold. This system would require gold to be spread among the major economic power-blocks proportionally.

Jean-Claude Trichet, former president of the European Central Bank, said on November 4, 2014:

The global economy and global finance is at the turning point in a way, ...new rules have been discussed not only inside the advanced economies, but with all emerging economies, including the most important emerging economies, namely, China.

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

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City of New Orleans passes sweeping smoking ban

© Rauluminate

Update: Amendments added to the ordinance slightly changed the final ban to not effect parks or outdoor shopping malls, according to the . Fines will also begin at $50. A previous version of this story said fines began at $100.

New Orleans passed a far-reaching smoking ban on Thursday that prohibits lighting up in bars, casinos, private clubs - even in the car while waiting in line at a drive-thru.

Claiming there is no "constitutional right" to smoke, the New Orleans City Council unanimously voted to outlaw smoking and electronic cigarettes in indoor and outdoor public places.

The ordinance, which goes into effect in 90 days, applies to bars, casinos, parks, private clubs, any business establishment, recreational areas, sports arenas, theaters, and a host of other places.

"[T]here is no legal or constitutional 'right to smoke,'" the ordinance said. "Business owners have no legal or constitutional right to expose their employees and customers to the toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke. On the contrary, employers have a common law duty to provide their workers with a workplace that is not unreasonably dangerous."

The ordinance was coauthored by Democratic councilmembers LaToya Cantrell, a former "community organizer," and Susan Guidry.

The smoking ban carries $50 fines for a person who smokes a cigarette, natural or synthetic marijuana, or e-cigarettes in "public places."

Public places include aquariums, laundromats, parking structures, trailer parks, condos, restaurants, shopping malls, outdoor stadiums and amphitheaters, libraries, theaters, lobbies, and more.

The ordinance applies to private clubs, private and semi-private rooms in nursing homes, places of employment, correctional facilities, school buses, and all schools and colleges.

The ordinance goes further to banning smoking in many outdoor areas, including construction sites. Outdoor recreational areas, including amusement parks, athletic fields, beaches, fairgrounds, gardens, golf courses, parks, plazas, skate parks, swimming pools, trails, and zoos, will also be affected.

Smoking will also be banned within 25 feet of parks and bus stops.

Violations are filed as a "public nuisance." A second violation carries a $200 fine, and a third, if committed within the last year, can be as high as $500. Businesses can also have permits suspended if they allow smoking on their premises.

New Orleans residents will also no longer be able to smoke in their cars while waiting to use an ATM.

Smoking is now banned in "all outdoor service lines, including lines in which service is obtained by persons in vehicles, such as service that is provided by bank tellers, parking lot attendants, and toll takers."

"In lines in which service is obtained by persons in vehicles, smoking is prohibited by both pedestrians and persons in vehicles, but only within twenty-five (25) feet of the point of service," the ordinance said.

According to the ordinance, smoking is only allowed in private homes, private residences, and private vehicles, but even they have restrictions if they are used for childcare.

Smoking rooms in hotels will still be allowed, and in retail tobacco stores. However, tobacco retailers will not be allowed to sell products "within 300 feet of any park, church, public library, school, or any childcare facility."

E-cigarettes were included in the ban because their use in public "creates concern and confusion and leads to difficulties in enforcing the smoking prohibitions."

The ordinance had support from groups such as "Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights," but was opposed by the French Quarter Business League and bar owners on Bourbon Street.

One smoker said the ban goes against what New Orleans is all about.

"It's not New York, it's not Seattle, it's a party town," said Elizabeth Stella. "A bar is not a health spa and alcohol is not a spa drink."

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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'We didn't even really know who we were firing at' - former US drone operator

US drone

© Reuters/U.S. Navy/Erik Hildebrandt

Former US drone sensor operator Brandon Bryant admits he "couldn't stand" himself for his participation in the country's drone program for six years - firing on targets whose identities often went unconfirmed.

Since 2001, and increasingly under the Obama administration, the US has been carrying out drone strikes against targets believed to be affiliated with terrorist organizations in countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. The program, which has been shrouded in secrecy, has been routinely criticized for the high number of resultant civilian casualties.

Pakistan's Peshawar High Court ruled in 2013 that the attacks constitute a war crime and violate the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Meanwhile the Obama administration continues to insist that drone warfare is a precise and effective method of combat.

According to data collected by the human rights group Reprieve and published last November, attempts to kill 41 targeted individuals across Pakistan and Yemen resulted in the deaths of some 1,147 people. Often a kill requires multiple strikes, the group noted.

Bryant, who worked as a sensor operator, manning drones' cameras and other intelligence gathering hardware, worked from an airbase in Nevada. The operator who left his post in 2011 spoke harshly of the program and the leadership responsible for approving it.

"There was no oversight. I just know that the inside of the entire program was diseased and people need to know what happens to those that were on the inside," he told RT's Anissa Naouai. "People need to know the lack of oversight, the lack of accountability that happen."

Bryant decried the "black hole putrid system that is either going to crush you or you're going to conform to it, and apologized to families of victims whose deaths he was responsible for. By his estimation, he helped kill some 1626 people. "I couldn't stand myself for doing it" he added.

"I'm sorry that the mistake happened. I'm doing everything that I can to prevent further mistakes from happening."

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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How the CIA made Google: Inside the secret network behind mass surveillance, endless war, and Skynet

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, western governments are moving fast to legitimize expanded powers of mass surveillance and controls on the internet, all in the name of fighting terrorism.

US and European politicians have called to protect NSA-style snooping, and to advance the capacity to intrude on internet privacy by outlawing encryption. One idea is to establish a telecoms partnership that would unilaterally delete content deemed to “fuel hatred and violence” in situations considered “appropriate.” Heated discussions are going on at government and parliamentary level to explore cracking down on lawyer-client confidentiality.

What any of this would have done to prevent the Charlie Hebdo attacks remains a mystery, especially given that we already know the terrorists were on the radar of French intelligence for up to a decade.

There is little new in this story. The 9/11 atrocity was the first of many terrorist attacks, each succeeded by the dramatic extension of draconian state powers at the expense of civil liberties, backed up with the projection of military force in regions identified as hotspots harbouring terrorists. Yet there is little indication that this tried and tested formula has done anything to reduce the danger. If anything, we appear to be locked into a deepening cycle of violence with no clear end in sight.

As our governments push to increase their powers, INSURGE INTELLIGENCE can now reveal the vast extent to which the US intelligence community is implicated in nurturing the web platforms we know today, for the precise purpose of utilizing the technology as a mechanism to fight global ‘information war’ — a war to legitimize the power of the few over the rest of us. The lynchpin of this story is the corporation that in many ways defines the 21st century with its unobtrusive omnipresence: Google.

Google styles itself as a friendly, funky, user-friendly tech firm that rose to prominence through a combination of skill, luck, and genuine innovation. This is true. But it is a mere fragment of the story. In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.

The inside story of Google’s rise, revealed here for the first time, opens a can of worms that goes far beyond Google, unexpectedly shining a light on the existence of a parasitical network driving the evolution of the US national security apparatus, and profiting obscenely from its operation.

The shadow network

For the last two decades, US foreign and intelligence strategies have resulted in a global ‘war on terror’ consisting of prolonged military invasions in the Muslim world and comprehensive surveillance of civilian populations. These strategies have been incubated, if not dictated, by a secret network inside and beyond the Pentagon.

Established under the Clinton administration, consolidated under Bush, and firmly entrenched under Obama, this bipartisan network of mostly neoconservative ideologues sealed its dominion inside the US Department of Defense (DoD) by the dawn of 2015, through the operation of an obscure corporate entity outside the Pentagon, but run by the Pentagon.

In 1999, the CIA created its own venture capital investment firm, In-Q-Tel, to fund promising start-ups that might create technologies useful for intelligence agencies. But the inspiration for In-Q-Tel came earlier, when the Pentagon set up its own private sector outfit.

Known as the ‘Highlands Forum,’ this private network has operated as a bridge between the Pentagon and powerful American elites outside the military since the mid-1990s. Despite changes in civilian administrations, the network around the Highlands Forum has become increasingly successful in dominating US defense policy.

Giant defense contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton and Science Applications International Corporation are sometimes referred to as the ‘shadow intelligence community’ due to the revolving doors between them and government, and their capacity to simultaneously influence and profit from defense policy. But while these contractors compete for power and money, they also collaborate where it counts. The Highlands Forum has for 20 years provided an off the record space for some of the most prominent members of the shadow intelligence community to convene with senior US government officials, alongside other leaders in relevant industries.

I first stumbled upon the existence of this network in November 2014, when I reported for VICE’s Motherboard that US defense secretary Chuck Hagel’s newly announced ‘Defense Innovation Initiative’ was really about building Skynet — or something like it, essentially to dominate an emerging era of automated robotic warfare.

That story was based on a little-known Pentagon-funded ‘white paper’ published two months earlier by the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington DC, a leading US military-run institution that, among other things, generates research to develop US defense policy at the highest levels. The white paper clarified the thinking behind the new initiative, and the revolutionary scientific and technological developments it hoped to capitalize on.

The Highlands Forum

The co-author of that NDU white paper is Linton Wells, a 51-year veteran US defense official who served in the Bush administration as the Pentagon’s chief information officer, overseeing the National Security Agency (NSA) and other spy agencies. He still holds active top-secret security clearances, and according to a report by Government Executive magazine in 2006 he chaired the ‘Highlands Forum’, founded by the Pentagon in 1994.

Linton Wells II (right) former Pentagon chief information officer and assistant secretary of defense for networks, at a recent Pentagon Highlands Forum session. Rosemary Wenchel, a senior official in the US Department of Homeland Security, is sitting next to him

New Scientist magazine (paywall) has compared the Highlands Forum to elite meetings like “Davos, Ditchley and Aspen,” describing it as “far less well known, yet… arguably just as influential a talking shop.” Regular Forum meetings bring together “innovative people to consider interactions between policy and technology. Its biggest successes have been in the development of high-tech network-based warfare.”

Given Wells’ role in such a Forum, perhaps it was not surprising that his defense transformation white paper was able to have such a profound impact on actual Pentagon policy. But if that was the case, why had no one noticed?

Despite being sponsored by the Pentagon, I could find no official page on the DoD website about the Forum. Active and former US military and intelligence sources had never heard of it, and neither did national security journalists. I was baffled.

The Pentagon’s intellectual capital venture firm

In the prologue to his 2007 book, A Crowd of One: The Future of Individual Identity, John Clippinger, an MIT scientist of the Media Lab Human Dynamics Group, described how he participated in a “Highlands Forum” gathering, an “invitation-only meeting funded by the Department of Defense and chaired by the assistant for networks and information integration.” This was a senior DoD post overseeing operations and policies for the Pentagon’s most powerful spy agencies including the NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), among others. Starting from 2003, the position was transitioned into what is now the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. The Highlands Forum, Clippinger wrote, was founded by a retired US Navy captain named Dick O’Neill. Delegates include senior US military officials across numerous agencies and divisions — “captains, rear admirals, generals, colonels, majors and commanders” as well as “members of the DoD leadership.”

What at first appeared to be the Forum’s main website describes Highlands as “an informal cross-disciplinary network sponsored by Federal Government,” focusing on “information, science and technology.” Explanation is sparse, beyond a single ‘Department of Defense’ logo.

But Highlands also has another website describing itself as an “intellectual capital venture firm” with “extensive experience assisting corporations, organizations, and government leaders.” The firm provides a “wide range of services, including: strategic planning, scenario creation and gaming for expanding global markets,” as well as “working with clients to build strategies for execution.” ‘The Highlands Group Inc.,’ the website says, organizes a whole range of Forums on these issue.

For instance, in addition to the Highlands Forum, since 9/11 the Group runs the ‘Island Forum,’ an international event held in association with Singapore’s Ministry of Defense, which O’Neill oversees as “lead consultant.” The Singapore Ministry of Defense website describes the Island Forum as “patterned after the Highlands Forum organized for the US Department of Defense.” Documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that Singapore played a key role in permitting the US and Australia to tap undersea cables to spy on Asian powers like Indonesia and Malaysia.

The Highlands Group website also reveals that Highlands is partnered with one of the most powerful defense contractors in the United States. Highlands is “supported by a network of companies and independent researchers,” including “our Highlands Forum partners for the past ten years at SAIC; and the vast Highlands network of participants in the Highlands Forum.”

SAIC stands for the US defense firm, Science Applications International Corporation, which changed its name to Leidos in 2013, operating SAIC as a subsidiary. SAIC/Leidos is among the top 10 largest defense contractors in the US, and works closely with the US intelligence community, especially the NSA. According to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock, the first to disclose the vast extent of the privatization of US intelligence with his seminal book Spies for Hire, SAIC has a “symbiotic relationship with the NSA: the agency is the company’s largest single customer and SAIC is the NSA’s largest contractor.”

Richard ‘Dick’ Patrick O’Neill, founding president of the Pentagon’s Highlands Forum

The full name of Captain “Dick” O’Neill, the founding president of the Highlands Forum, is Richard Patrick O’Neill, who after his work in the Navy joined the DoD. He served his last post as deputy for strategy and policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, before setting up Highlands.

The Club of Yoda

But Clippinger also referred to another mysterious individual revered by Forum attendees:

“He sat at the back of the room, expressionless behind thick, black-rimmed glasses. I never heard him utter a word… Andrew (Andy) Marshall is an icon within DoD. Some call him Yoda, indicative of his mythical inscrutable status… He had served many administrations and was widely regarded as above partisan politics. He was a supporter of the Highlands Forum and a regular fixture from its beginning.”

Since 1973, Marshall has headed up one of the Pentagon’s most powerful agencies, the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), the US defense secretary’s internal ‘think tank’ which conducts highly classified research on future planning for defense policy across the US military and intelligence community. The ONA has played a key role in major Pentagon strategy initiatives, including Maritime Strategy, the Strategic Defense Initiative, the Competitive Strategies Initiative, and the Revolution in Military Affairs.

Andrew ‘Yoda’ Marshall, head of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA) and co-chair of the Highlands Forum, at an early Highlands event in 1996 at the Santa Fe Institute. Marshall is retiring as of January 2015

In a rare 2002 profile in Wired, reporter Douglas McGray described Andrew Marshall, now 93 years old, as “the DoD’s most elusive” but “one of its most influential” officials. McGray added that “Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz” — widely considered the hawks of the neoconservative movement in American politics — were among Marshall’s “star protégés.”

Speaking at a low-key Harvard University seminar a few months after 9/11, Highlands Forum founding president Richard O’Neill said that Marshall was much more than a “regular fixture” at the Forum. “Andy Marshall is our co-chair, so indirectly everything that we do goes back into Andy’s system,” he told the audience. “Directly, people who are in the Forum meetings may be going back to give briefings to Andy on a variety of topics and to synthesize things.” He also said that the Forum had a third co-chair: the director of the Defense Advanced Research and Projects Agency (DARPA), which at that time was a Rumsfeld appointee, Anthony J. Tether. Before joining DARPA, Tether was vice president of SAIC’s Advanced Technology Sector.

Anthony J. Tether, director of DARPA and co-chair of the Pentagon’s Highlands Forum from June 2001 to February 2009

The Highlands Forum’s influence on US defense policy has thus operated through three main channels: its sponsorship by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (around the middle of last decade this was transitioned specifically to the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, which is in charge of the main surveillance agencies); its direct link to Andrew ‘Yoda’ Marshall’s ONA; and its direct link to DARPA.

The physiological benefits of hugging


© preventdisease

Hugs make you feel good for a reason and it's not just the loving embrace that gives us that warm feeling in our hearts. It's much more. It affects the entire body to such an extent that many scientists claim it is equivalent to the effect of many different drugs operating on the body simultaneously. Even seemingly trivial instances of interpersonal touch can help people deal with their emotions with clarity and more effectively.


In a study on fears and self-esteem, research published in the journal revealed that hugs and touch significantly reduce worry of mortality. The studies found that hugging -- even if it was just an inanimate object like a teddy bear -- helps soothe individuals' existential fears. "Interpersonal touch is such a powerful mechanism that even objects that simulate touch by another person may help to instill in people a sense of existential significance," lead researcher Sander Koole wrote in the study.


Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that acts on the limbic system, the brain's emotional centre, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and stress, and even making mammals monogamous. It is the hormone responsible for us all being here today. You see this little gem is released during childbirth, making our mothers forget about all of the excruciating pain they endured expelling us from their bodies and making them want to still love and spend time with us. New research from the University of California suggests that it has a similarly civilizing effect on human males, making them more affectionate and better at forming relationships and social bonding. And it dramatically increased the libido and sexual performance of test subjects. More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate. The chemical has also been linked to social bonding. "Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding," DePauw University psychologist Matt Hertenstein told NPR. "It really lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people." When we hug someone, oxytocin is released into our bodies by our pituitary gland, lowering both our heart rates and our cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress, high blood pressure, and heart disease.


Embracing someone may warm your heart, but according to one study a hug can be good medicine for it too: In an experiment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill , participants who didn't have any contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate of 10 beats per minute compared to the five beats per minute among those who got to hug their partners during the experiment.


Everything everyone does involves protecting and triggering dopamine flow. Many drugs of abuse act through this system. Problems with the system can lead to serious depression and other mental illness. Low dopamine levels also play a role in the neurodegenerative disease Parkinson's as well as mood disorders such as depression. Procrastination, self-doubt, and lack of enthusiasm are linked with low levels of dopamine and hugs are said to adjust those levels. Dopamine is responsible for giving us that feel-good feeling, and it's also responsible for motivation! Hugs stimulate brains to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone. MRI and PET scans reveal that when you hugs people or listen to music that excites you, your brain releases dopamine and even in anticipation of those moments. Dopamine sensors are the areas that many stimulating drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine target. The presence of a certain kinds of dopamine receptors are also associated with sensation-seeking.


Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important. Loneliness and depression appears when serotonin is absent. It's perhaps one reason why people fall into gang and criminal activity -- the culture brings experiences that facilitate serotonin release. Reaching out and hugging releases endorphins and serotonin into the blood vessels and the released endorphins and serotonin cause pleasure and negate pain and sadness and decrease the chances of getting heart problems, helps fight excess weight and prolongs life. Even the cuddling of pets has a soothing effect that reduces the stress levels. Hugging for an extended time lifts one's serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.


Want to do something for future generations? Hug them when they're still little. An Emory University study in rats found a link between touch and relieving stress, particularly in the early stages of life. The research concluded that the same can be said of humans, citing that babies' development -- including how they cope with stress as adults -- depends on a combination of nature nurture.


Hugs balance out the nervous system. The skin contains a network of tiny, egg-shaped pressure centres called Pacinian corpuscles that can sense touch and which are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve. The galvanic skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin conductance. The effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system - parasympathetic.


Research shows that the hug hormones above are immuno-regulatory. All of this has an even deeper meaning on the way our systems work with each other, including our immune system. his also parallels with the way that hugs promote the relaxation response -- they help to change the way your body handles both physical and social stresses, thus boosting your immune system naturally, to do the job it was designed to do!

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Woman thrown in jail for having an addiction while pregnant

Last year, Tennessee became the first state to define drug use during pregnancy as a crime. Women whose newborns test positive for narcotic drugs can be charged with assault and punished with up to 15 years of prison.

When critics of the measure -- which included everyone from addiction counselors to doctors to Obama's drug czar -- pointed out that terrorizing pregnant addicts with the threat of prison would not be helpful in the treatment of their condition, supporters shot back that they didn't want to put women in jail; the law would merely allow prosecutors to help push women into rehab.

Since the law went into effect in July, most of the women charged with assault for drug use during pregnancy have been placed in treatment programs. Still, as a Nation investigation found, doctors and counselors who work with pregnant addicts also say many women have begun avoiding prenatal care because they're scared of going to jail. Some have fled the state to give birth.

It looks like their fears are warranted. On Thursday Jamillah Falls, the second woman in the state to be charged with assault after her newborn tested positive for heroin, was sentenced to six months in prison, reports WREG. Her child is with the Department of Children's services, according to the report. A spokesman for the Shelby County prosecutor's office tells AlterNet that Falls failed to complete the terms of her probation.

Cherisse Scott, founder of the reproductive rights advocacy group SisterReach, doesn't know how Falls allegedly violated her probation, but notes that she's had an exceedingly hard time in the program. After a 28 day detox, Falls was placed at a halfway house in an unsafe neighborhood. She was reportedly stressed out about the criminal charge that hung over her head and heartbroken to be separated from her baby. She had to find a job to stay in the halfway house, no easy feat given that her face had been splashed all over local news as "pregnant heroin addict." Scott says Falls was desperate to find work, even calling her up to see if she had anything at her organization.

"It's what we feared," Scott tells AlterNet. "Women already dealing with poverty trying to maintain beyond the detox mandate. Now they have to deal with the stress of the court system, of urine samples, appointments."

Farah Diaz-Tello, a staff attorney with the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, is saddened but not surprised that Falls will end up in prison.

"This is exactly how this law is intended to work," Diaz-Tello tells AlterNet. "It was never intended to get people help. It's a method for criminalizing women for the outcome of their pregnancy. It bears out all of the warnings that advocates for women's health tried to sound the alarm about."

Although she is not familiar with the specifics of Falls' probation, Diaz-Tello points out that forced drug treatment for the poor looks nothing like how most people picture rehab, based on, say, where celebrities go to clean up their act.

"We think of treatment as being a therapeutic relationship; that it's confidential, that it helps a person get their problem under control. But for people under supervision by the correctional system, it's just another form of state surveillance."

Drug addiction is so hard to cure precisely because it is often rooted in trauma: a majority of female drug addicts have experienced sexual assault or other violence. Poor people without access to mental health care might use drugs to self-medicate, but many treatment programs don't account for the complex interplay between poverty, trauma and addiction.

"Most court-ordered treatment is not trauma informed, which is important for women," Diaz-Tello says. "People who don't have access to the system do what they can to get by. It's no surprise that people under stress, scrutinized by the state, with the threat of their baby being taken away -- that they would experience stress that could lead them to use again."

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Britain announces new transfer of powers for Scotland, edges toward federalism

© Reuters/Luke MacGregor

A Scottish Saltire flag and British Union flag fly together with the London Eye behind in London September 19, 2014.

The British government began a historic transfer of powers to Scotland on Thursday, keeping a pledge it had given to persuade Scots to reject independence as renewed nationalist support surges.

The draft bill, to be enacted after a general election on May 7, will further dismantle Britain's highly centralized system of government, a move critics fear could trigger the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom.

It has already spurred demands from some politicians for similar moves in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, teeing up political uncertainty and heralding an eventual redistribution of power in the world's sixth largest economy.

Under the law, Scotland, which voted to reject full independence in a referendum in September, will be able to set income tax rates, have some influence over welfare spending, and be given the authority to decide how the Scottish parliament and other structures are elected and run.

"The leaders of the other main political parties and I promised extensive new powers for the Scottish Parliament -- a vow -- with a clear process and a clear timetable," British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a speech in the Scottish capital Edinburgh.

"And now, here we have it: new powers for Scotland, built to last, securing our united future."

Cameron, whose party is deeply unpopular in Scotland, moved to quell nationalist doubts the draft law would reach the statute book, saying the new powers were "guaranteed" whoever formed the next British government.

"The Scottish parliament will have more control of its tax and spending, making it one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world," he said.

The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) welcomed the law's publication but complained it did not go far enough and left the British government with too much power in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, said she wanted "an urgent rethink" of the law to remove what she said were British government vetoes in certain policy areas.

"I welcome the draft clauses today as far as they go," she told the Scottish parliament. "But I think in some key respects there has been a significant watering down."

The SNP, which is hoping to hold the balance of power in Britain after May's UK-wide election after a surge in support despite its referendum loss, has questioned if it will really become law, despite assurances from London-based parties.

"A big issue in the (election) campaign will be making sure it's delivered, because unfortunately Scotland's been round and round here before," Steven Paterson, an SNP candidate for Stirling, told Reuters before publication.

The independence referendum, which saw Scots reject a breakaway by 55-45 percent, exposed scepticism about promises made by politicians like Cameron, something the SNP has since capitalized on, surging in opinion polls.

The new law is part of an effort by Britain's established parties to neutralize the SNP threat.

The opposition Labour party, which has relied on Scotland to give it dozens of lawmakers in the British parliament for decades, is hoping, but cannot be sure, that it will revive its own flagging fortunes in Scotland before May's election.

Scots nationalists have suggested they may push for another independence referendum if British voters choose to leave the European Union in a 2017 referendum that Cameron, a Conservative, has said he will call if he returns to office.

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New Illinois law allows school officials to demand access to students' Facebook passwords

Facebook page

© Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

Technically Incorrect: Conceived to combat cyberbullying, a new law in Illinois may result in schools demanding social media passwords, even if the posting was not done at school or on school computers.

Illinois can't seem to decide whether it's the home of midwestern gentlefolk or of the most draconian humans this side of Moscow.

One of the state's newest laws, for example, may have goodness at its heart. However, it may have something else in various of its extremities.

The law, which went into effect on January 1, is designed to curb cyberbullying, but it also could encourage schools to pry into students' personal lives.

KTVI-TV reported that the law was already making some parents deeply uncomfortable. That's because one of its stipulations is troubling.

Indeed, this week Illinois parents began receiving a letter from school authorities informing them that their children's social media passwords may now have to be handed over, as part of school discipline. Motherboard reports that it obtained one of these letters. It reads, in part:

School authorities may require a student or his or her parent/guardian to provide a password or other related account information in order to gain access to his/her account or profile on a social networking website if school authorities have reasonable cause to believe that a student's account on a social networking site contains evidence that a student has violated a school disciplinary rule or procedure.

You might imagine that this stipulation only applies to school computers and activity on school premises. It does not. The schools may ask for passwords and search on the basis of any posting by a student at any time and in any place.

And who will decide what is reasonable cause? Leigh Lewis, superintendent of Triad Community Schools Unit District 2, told Motherboard that if someone didn't cooperate, there might be trouble. Not detention, criminal charges.

Those of sharp eyes and, perhaps, parenting experience, will wonder just what private information the schools might encounter as they search for their alleged evidence.

As one parent who had received the latter, Sarah Bozarth, told KTVI: "It's one thing for me to take my child's social media account in there and open it up for the teacher to look at (...) but to have to hand over your passport and personal information to your accounts to the school is just not acceptable."

I have contacted Illinois' Board of Education to ask how educators justify what seems like the potential for a considerable invasion of privacy. I will update, should I hear.

What if, in performing a search, the school discovers that a student is involved in, say, criminal activity or a sexual relationship? What if it discovers that the student has a particular medical problem?

Will it pinkie promise not to tell? I contacted Lewis to ask her views and will update, should she reply.

The whole idea of an authority being able to demand social media passwords has undergone some challenges over the last couple of years. This year, Oregon became the latest state to decide that colleges and employers would be forbidden from demanding social media usernames and passwords.

It's one thing for authorities to observe what employees, students or suspects are posting on social media. It's surely another to think that they have the automatic right to simply demand what is quite obviously personal information. In Illinois, it will all likely come down to the idea of reasonable cause. (No case has yet emerged of a school exercising its alleged right to ask for a password.)

Three years ago, however, 12-year-old Riley Stratton sued her Minnesota schools district after she claimed she'd been coerced into revealing her Facebook password. Last year, the case was settled with the Minnewaska Schools District paying Stratton $70,000. In this case, Stratton was accused of writing nasty things about her hall monitor.

Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities -- something to which all users agree (perhaps unknowingly) when signing up -- has a section 4.8. It reads: "You will not share your password (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account."

Clearly, cyberbullying is awful and potentially dangerous. However, where will the balance be struck between the need to find the alleged bully and the protection of someone's basic rights?

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SOTT Exclusive: EU-NATO hopes latest 'Islamist' terror-mongering will draw Balkans closer to West

Is it mere coincidence that 'ISIS terror' pops up at the right time and place with respect to the long-term geostrategic interests of the Atlantic Empire?

Are 'Islamic' terrorists in the Balkan region threatening the freedom of the EU?

The European Union is concerned about efforts by Islamist terrorist groups to seize the western Balkans as a springboard for action in the EU. The EU is planning closer cooperation with the countries from the region and tougher controls at border crossings.

One preliminary question to ask might be; how did any such 'Islamic' terrorists wind up in the Balkans in the first place?

Having trained and armed their terror brigades to fight the 'Soviet invaders' during the Afghan-Soviet war, the U.S. was so pleased by their efforts that they expanded their field of operation.

In the wake of the Cold War, the CIA continued to support the Islamic brigades out of Pakistan. New undercover initiatives were set in motion in the Middle East, Central Asia, the Balkans and south East Asia.

As the FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds revealed, the Balkan region, along with Central Asia and the Caucasus, was turned into one of the main fields of operations for 'Gladio B' - that is, using jihadist mercenaries as foot soldiers for the Western empire. So if you hear about terrorists operating out of some location, it's a safe bet that they were put there by our leaders.

While we have no evidence that these alleged terrorists are presently using the Balkans as a springboard for further terror activity in the EU, we do have evidence that the U.S. is doing so. An article that appeared in the notes that the U.S., along with Britain and other European states, is shipping weapons to rebels terrorists in Syria - via Zagreb, Croatia.

The claims that 'Islamic' terrorists are operating out of the Balkan region is also being used to justify the crack-down on our ever-eroding civil liberties, and will further serve to target the Muslim population there, which is being blamed as the source of jihadism, terrorism and all things evil.

Since the authorities can't just outright start arresting and spying on people, they need to create the 'reality' of an 'Islamic' terrorist threat. So we get claims about various 'terror cells' that are allegedly operating in and around Europe.

EU plans to establish closer cooperation with the countries of the region in order to prevent terrorist activities, passengers from the Western Balkans who are traveling to the EU can count on being exposed to additional checks of their travel documents and luggage when entering the Schengen Area.

The hordes of terrorists that are allegedly curled up somewhere in the Balkans are actually furthering the plans of the powers-that-be. We can expect more Western-styled 'freedom arrests' to be made, followed by press conferences announcing more foiled terror plots, all in order to justify the never-ending 'War on terror.'

We get a clue as to what's really going on here when we read how the liberal, ex-pat Balkan media service, 'Balkan Insight', framed this latest 'terror threat' in Europe:

Islamist Terror Threat Draws EU, Balkans Together

Balkan Insight is part of a regional media network funded by Western NGOs, whose mission is to prepare Yugoslavians for the 'inevitability' of complete assimilation within the EU.

'Security strategies' and 'security structures' are purely NATO's domain, so the idea that security issues would be left to EU civilian bureaucrats is laughable.

The EU is here playing the role of facilitator for the expansion of the Atlantic Empire. The CIA-NATO knows damn well how many 'terrorists' it has in Kosovo, Bosnia and Albania... because it put them there in order to break up Yugoslavia in the 1990s, then later used the 'Kosovo Liberation Army' to bait Milosevic into an action that 'justified' carpet-bombing Serbia, and now to incorporate what remains of the region it first smashed to pieces.

By bringing the 'War on Terror' to the Balkans, the Atlanticists are putting pressure on regional leaders to not wander from the 'inevitability' of their becoming permanent vassal states of the Atlantic Empire.


Ante Sarlija (Profile)

Born and raised in Croatia, Ante joined the SOTT editorial team in 2014 and has been researching since then. He is also a part of the Croatian SOTT translation team.

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Man arrested after forcing woman to sign "slave contract" and torturing her

© Lincoln Police Department

Nicholas Allen Talbot

A former sex offender has been taken into custody after Nebraska police discovered he had forced a woman in a long-term abusive relationship with him to sign a 'slave contract,' the Journal-Star reports.

Nicholas Allen Talbot, 35, was charged with second-degree domestic assault, after the unidentified woman showed injuries she had sustained to her pastor who contacted police authorities.

"They were horrific," said the Rev. Kathy Gouin of the Lincoln Foursquare Church.

According to authorities, Talbot forced the 32-year-old woman to sign what he said was a legal document titled "Slave Contract" on Jan. 15.

In an affidavit, Lincoln Police Officer Angela Morehouse said that document stated the woman "only had rights the master gave her."

The affidavit states that Talbot whipped the woman, burned her with cigarettes, and forced her to drink his urine several times a day.

Police discovered burn marks on the woman's spine, buttocks, and one breast where the woman said Talbot used a heated screwdriver.

According to Morehouse, the woman had "PROPERTY OF NICK" written on her left arm in black marker.

The woman explained to investigators that Talbot had been abusing her nearly 10 years, but she had been afraid to go the police because she had been led to believe they were part of Talbot's "company" or "gang," Morehouse said.

The woman stated that he had threatened to have her parents and grandmother killed in front of her if she didn't obey him.

The Rev. Gouin said she has known the woman for approximately one year and described her as "very sweet and innocent' and "vulnerable."

"She's very innocent and believes people," Gouin said.

Talbot previously served three years in prison for sexually assaulting a child twice in 1998, and is being held in jail pending bail.

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Scientists invent teleporter that works using 3-D printer

© Allstar/Cinetext/Paramount

Teleportation has been the holy grail of transport for decades, ever since Mr Scott first beamed up Captain Kirk and his crew in the 1966 opening episode of . Now the technology may have been cracked in real life ... sort of.

Scientists from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam have invented a real-life teleporter system that can scan in an object and "beam it" to another location.

Not quite the dematerialisation and reconstruction of science fiction, the system relies on destructive scanning and 3D printing.

An object at one end of the system is milled down layer-by-layer, creating a scan per layer which is then transmitted through an encrypted communication to a 3D printer. The printer then replicates the original object layer by layer, effectively teleporting an object from one place to another.

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"We present a simple self-contained appliance that allows relocating inanimate physical objects across distance," said the six person team in a paper submitted for the Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction conference at Stanford University. "Users place an object into the sender unit, enter the address of a receiver unit, and press the relocate button."

The system dubbed "Scotty" in homage to the Enterprise's much beleaguered chief engineer, differs from previous systems that merely copy physical object as its layer-by-layer deconstruction and encrypted transmission ensures that only one copy of the object exists at any one time, according to the scientists.

Real-world applications are pretty short for this kind of destruction and reconstruction. But the encryption, transmission and 3D printing objects could be key for companies wishing to sell goods via home 3D printers, ensuring only one copy could be made per purchase - effectively digital rights management for 3D printed objects.

Those looking to cut their commute by simply beaming into the office will have to wait at least another decade or two.

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Racist California congressman: Keep minimum wage low 'for minorities' who aren't worth more than $7 an hour

California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock said on Thursday that the minimum wage should not be raised because low pay was necessary for minorities and other unskilled workers who were not worth more than $7 an hour.

During an appearance on C-SPAN's , host Greta Brawner asked McClintock if he could get behind a presidential candidate like Mitt Romney, who is one of an increasing number of Republicans saying that the minimum wage should be at least $10.10 an hour.

But McClintock argued that raising the minimum wage would "rip the first rung in the ladder of opportunity for teenagers, for minorities, for people who are trying to get into the job market for their first job."

The California Republican explained that the minimum wage was not supposed to be a living wage that could support families.

"It's not supposed to support a family. The minimum wage is that first job when you have no skills, no experience, no working history. That's how you get into the job market, that's how you develop that experience, develop that work record, get your first raise, then your next raise, then your promotion."

McClintock continued: "If your labor is an unskilled person just entering the workforce is worth say $7 an hour at a job and the minimum wage is $10, you have just been made permanently unemployable. That first rung of the economic ladder has been ripped out and you can't get on it. That is a tragedy."

Watch the video below from C-SPAN, broadcast Jan. 22, 2015.

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Chris Kyle vs. Casey Sheehan - The U.S. glorifies murderers while frowning upon the real heroes who refuse to kill

Casey and his Mom

Navy Seal and American Shame (Sniper), Chris Kyle

"I can't kill anyone." US working-class soldier before his short deployment to Iraq, Casey Sheehan

This is something that I don't want to revisit - I never want to relive the worst experience of my life. However, with the 11th anniversary of my son's death in Iraq on 04/04/04 approaching and the new "blockbuster" infecting movie screens around the world, I really must get this off of my chest.

Most citizens of this nation are without a doubt addicted to wars and war "heroes" without stopping for more than a few cursory seconds to count the costs or evaluate the propaganda. I despair that a movie like grossed over 105 million at the box office over the weekend where we are supposed to be commemorating the birth of a man of peace, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Everything in American Sniper is taken for fact when the author and focus Chris Kyle already had been proven to have been a blowhard and a liar, when the facts and political motivations ofSelma are being questioned.

As is the US addicted to its wars, it is also addicted to lying about them and I know this because I have my own case about Casey for proof. We got the news about Casey about 14 hours or so after his detail had been ambushed in Iraq. After I lie on the floor screaming for I don't know how long, the three emissaries of death couldn't really tell us much except that he was Killed In Action (KIA) - I still can't see a KIA brand car without my heart sinking.

Since Casey's murder, I have found out so much about the US military I had no idea about, but when a group of troops (Battalion? Unit? Army? Murder?) get deployed to combat, some stay back as "Funeral Duty." Two such persons came to Casey's funeral and regaled us with stories about what a wonderful mechanic he was and how he had "volunteered" to go on the mission that killed him. Even though neither story rang true to me, I absorbed them like a dry sponge (as I was from all the tears I shed) wanting to hang on to some news of my son because he had only been there in Iraq a few days before he was killed. We didn't even know he was stationed at Camp War Eagle right in the heart of Sadr City, Baghdad.

Casey had joined the Army in the year 2000 for college benefits and with the promise from his lying recruiter that he could be a Chaplain's Assistant. I knew from our many conversations that Casey hated being a Humvee mechanic, but that was the only MOS (military job) available when he got to boot camp.

Also, the very final time he was home (oh, how I wish I knew for sure it was the final time, I would have carried out my half-joking threat to run him with my car just enough to disable him) at Christmas of 2003, he told everyone he was just going to "do his job" and come home safely because, as a Christian and gentle man, he could "never kill anyone." All of this didn't jibe at all with Casey "volunteering."

By drips and drabs, the truth came out. Much has been written with the Imperial spin about 04/04/04 in Sadr City - about how the First Cavalry (Casey's unit, or whatever) was attacked by the residents of Sadr City, but from unembedded journalists we have found out that the 1st Cav went out to provoke a response to show the residents who was "in charge now." April 4th was also right after the mercenaries of Blackwater had provoked the residents of Fallujah into an uprising that resulted in the highly publicized deaths of several mercenaries.

Four years after Casey died, I received an email from one of his buddies who was right next to him on that fateful evening. The vet started his email with, "Sheehan was a great guy, but he was a lousy mechanic." Which made me smile, because it rang true, but then he delivered the coup de gras:

"I don't know why you keep telling everyone it was Bush's fault, it was Sgt. (Name withheld by me)'s fault. He made your son go on that mission and in fact told him to 'get your goddamn ass on that truck' after Sheehan had said, 'no, I am not going, I am only a mechanic.'"

Even though I sobbed when I read that, I knew it was true. Casey knew he could never kill anyone and to me he is far more of a hero for not wanting to kill than is Chris Kyle for his self-proclaimed "more than 250" murders of what he called "savages."

How much courage does it really take for a sniper to be given co-ordinates from a spotter and then firing from hundreds of yards away? To me that is the definition of cowardice even forgetting about the lies that got both Casey and Kyle to Iraq and the ones who made billions in profits while Casey died thousands of miles away from his loving home and a vet with PTSD would ironically end up murdering Kyle back here in the states.

I will always be proud of my son who is a grand hero to me for refusing orders in the heat of battle and ashamed by a cold-blooded killer like Kyle and a nation that lifts him up as the standard of heroism. I find it supremely ironic and sad that NOT being a killer is frowned upon here while being a happy killer makes one a best-selling author and garners all kinds of award nominations and ticket sales for those who wish to exploit this nation's bloodlust. This truly makes me wonder if there is any hope to end the evil of US empire, or are we doomed to "wash, rinse, and repeat" these stories of infamy and tragedy over and over again until the USA collapses from the weight of all the carnage.

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Amazing images reveal a glowing blue sea in Hong Kong

This Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 photo made with a long exposure shows the glow from a Noctiluca scintillans algal bloom along the seashore in Hong Kong.

Eerie fluorescent blue patches of water glimmering off Hong Kong's seashore are magnificent, but disturbing and potentially toxic, marine biologists say.

The glow is an indicator of a harmful algal bloom created by something called , nicknamed Sea Sparkle.

It looks like algae and can act like algae, but is in fact a single-celled organism that technically can function as both animal and plant.

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These type blooms are triggered by farm pollution that can be devastating to marine life and local fisheries, according to University of Georgia oceanographer Samantha Joye, who was shown Associated Press photos of the glowing water.

'Those pictures are magnificent.

'It's just extremely unfortunate that the mysterious and majestic blue hue is created by a ,' Joye wrote in an email Thursday.

This is part of a problem that is growing worldwide, said Joye and other scientists.

is a type of single-cell life that eats plankton and is eaten by other species.

The plankton and Noctiluca become more abundant when nitrogen and phosphorous from farm run-off increase.

The plankton and become more abundant when nitrogen and phosphorous from farm run-off increase.

Unlike similar organisms, doesn't directly produce chemicals that can attack the nervous system or parts of the body.

But recent studies show it is much more complicated and links them to blooms that have been harmful to marine life.

The luminescence, also called Sea Sparkle, is triggered by farm pollution that can be devastating to marine life and local fisheries, according to University of Georgia oceanographer Samantha Joye.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Which countries benefit most from Paris shootings?

Psychos pretending to care

The scale of the events in France and the intensity of the ensuing panic turned out to be so massive that even the most politically unprepared people realized that the stability of EU is facing an enormous threat. And it doesn't even matter if the French authorities are successful in neutralizing the current situation - it may repeat on a much larger scale. It is impossible to stop this process within the framework of the modern "tolerant democracy" - placing well armed professional security units in front of every building in every city is simply not an option and everything else would be ineffective. An honest assessment of risks associated with similar events, even just in terms of insurance claims, will show that the entire economy is at risk of going down the drain. And I am talking about world-wide economy. Since I have written here a forecast that, among other things, contains some information about year 2015, I am obliged to add some commentary. The first question that begs an answer is: who stands to profit?

Here I will simply list possible beneficiaries. First choice - the US. The authorities in that country realized that the influence of opposition elites (the ones I wrote about in my forecast) is increasing so much that it is not only jeopardizing the agreements around the Trans Atlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA), but also becoming a threat to the pro-American elites' hold on power in Europe. Orban in Hungary, Zeman in Czech Republic, Marin Le Pen in France... All of these represent very negative processes for the US. Therefore, the situation must be blown up, "democracy" must be tucked away and a strict dictatorship must be established. A pro-American dictatorship that is, which will thoughtlessly follow orders from Washington without the need to engage in any kind of "democratic" procedures. In other words, install "pinochets" in every EU country complete with all the "bells and whistles" that always accompany these types of regimes: "death squadrons", rollback of all social security standards, removal of state regulations - that is total liberalization. And, of course, along with these developments a free trade area with the US will be established. By the way, the refusal by French authorities to allow "Front populaire" to participate in the "unity march" fits the above scenario very neatly - what kind of "democracy" and "unity" is this when a quarter of the native French (!) population is being rudely shoved aside.

I also would like to note that within the US elite there are several groups each of them having their own channels which could be used to stimulate and organize terrorist attacks that will fit their agenda. Each group has their own partners (British Windsors, world financial elites, China and many others), as well as their own interests, and all of this requires a very detailed and thorough analysis.

Second possibility - Britain (or, to be more specific, the House of Windsor). They might be worried about a scenario where Merkel will completely give in to US pressure and push Brussels to sign the TAFTA agreement, which will put an end to the idea of creating alternative non-dollar currency zones and will force the British financial system ("rothschilds") to lose control over interzonal transactions. Which basically means that a more or less independent British financial system will cease to exist, just as London will lose its status as a world financial center.

Third possibility - continental European elites ("black internationale", or the Vatican - in conspirological terms). For them, TAFTA is a catastrophe, and they have already gained enough influence to try and bring nationally oriented opposition elites to power. Once the number of EU countries where this handover of power happens passes a critical threshold, pro-American elites in Brussels would be forced out and the EU as we know it will be finished. It is possible that the ideas of Franco-German-Russian domination in Europe play a certain role in this scenario. Within imperial, and not liberal-democratic framework, of course.

Fourth possibility - Germany. They could have gotten anxious that Hollande will back out (of plans previously coordinated with Merkel) under the threat of losing power and they created a situation that allows to "tighten the screws" and substantially limit the influence and capabilities of the anti-American group led by Le Pen.

Fifth possibility is the one that is currently being "fed" to the masses, which is what makes it the least probable. This version implies that islamists are behind the attack - ISIS, "Al Qaeda", etc. It has its own intricacies because wherever we see a mention of "Al Qaeda", we must also look for traces of CIA and British intelligence involvement. "Al Qaeda" does not have enough power and resources to carry out such an attack independently, without outside help.

Sixth possibility - Saudi Arabia. Today it is taking a serious hit and it must find a way to survive. A number of scenarios which are being developed by US imply liquidation of the Saudi state with the ultimate goal of creating a Sunni caliphate, which would subsequently be used in an attack on Israel and Iran. These scenarios must be prevented. The easiest way is to tie up US resources on as many fronts as possible, forcing them to abandon the plans to remove Saudis from power. Israel is helping Saudis in this situation, but keeping a low profile.

Seventh possibility - us (Russia). Having failed to persuade Merkel to drop sanctions and realizing that she is firmly under US control, we decided to "blow up" EU. And started with France as it appears to be the first major European country ready to leave the US confrontation scheme against Russia. This gives Hollande an alibi and support for his anti-American actions ("What can we do, - he will tell Obama, - you didn't help, while Russia is supporting us"), and so on. It is also possible that we already have agreements with some of the parties mentioned above.

And the eights possibility, as we are moving further East - is China. This would mean that the attack was a "blowback" for Ukraine and other actions directed against the new Silk Road. In other words, it would imply China's entry into the big political "game" on a world-wide scale.

Theoretically all of the above mentioned possibilities are still not out of the question. As time goes by, more and more information will become available and the picture will become clearer, but we need to pay close attention. Many of the mentioned parties have their own ideological agendas, which were symbolically presented to the public during the last two days. The symbols included candles (for some reason no one in EU lighted candles to commemorate victims in Donbass, Odessa or Mariupol even though all of these places are also located in Europe and there are more people dying there every day, than in France), flowers, staged "unity marches" that reeked of fakeness so badly that one must wonder why it was impossible to prepare better!

Here is Russia things are starting to move as well - just look at the bickering between Venediktov and Kadyrov! However, I still don't see any constructive course of action being undertaken, but it is possible that it will never happen - because there is no one to implement such a course of action. By the way, I found Khodorkovsky's statement very indicative of what is happening here right now. He was clearly used to provoke the public and this distinctly showed that he is not an independent political figure. Furthermore, those who are using him are obviously no longer considering him a valuable asset.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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