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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Another huge asteroid to fly by Earth at 37,000 kph on Friday

asteroid flyby

© Reuters / NASA / ESA / Handout via Reuters

A 1,000 meter-wide asteroid is heading towards Earth this week - and its course will reach its closest point to our planet on Friday, according to NASA.

Traveling at a speed exceeding 37,000 kph, the 2014-YB35 asteroid is set to approach Earth from a distance of 4,473,807 km - some 11.7 times further away than the moon - according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

But should the asteroid's orbit be closer, the impact of collision could be devastating - and trigger earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as climate changes. For an asteroid of its size, it would not be difficult to beat the Tunguska Event of 1908, which left some 80 million trees knocked down in Siberia and sent a shock wave measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale.

"Smaller scale events like Tunguska are absolutely a real risk, largely they are undiscovered and so we are unprepared," Bill Napier, professor of astronomy at the University of Buckinghamshire, told the Daily Express. "With something like YB35, we are looking at a scale of global destruction, something that would pose a risk to the continuation of the planet. These events are however very rare, it is the smaller yet still very damaging impacts which are a very real threat."

The asteroid was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey in December last year, and is expected to back to Earth in 2033, this time at a distance of about 3,330,000 km. The Minor Planet Center has classified it as a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA).

According to NASA, outer space is home to over 1,500 PHAs. "Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid's potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth. This 'potential' to make close Earth approaches does not mean a PHA will impact the Earth. It only means there is a possibility for such a threat," a NASA spokesperson said.

"By monitoring these PHAs and updating their orbits as new observations become available, we can better predict the close-approach statistics and thus their Earth-impact threat."

This January, a massive asteroid the size of a mountain traveled past Earth at a much closer distance of 1,199,600 km, or 3.1 lunar distances. 2004-BL86 gave scientists a chance to learn more about the nature of asteroids - and, to their surprise, they found out that the space rock has its own moon.

Maya 'melting pot' discovered in Guatemala

Mayan Site

© Takeshi Inomata/University of Arizona

This is a round structure uncovered at Ceibal, from about 500 B.C.

Archaeologists working in Guatemala have unearthed new information about the Maya civilization's transition from a mobile, hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a sedentary way of life.

Led by University of Arizona archaeologists Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan, the team's excavations of the ancient Maya lowlands site of Ceibal suggest that as the society transitioned from a heavy reliance on foraging to farming, mobile communities and settled groups co-existed and may have come together to collaborate on construction projects and participate in public ceremonies.

The findings, to be published this week in , challenge two common assumptions: that mobile and sedentary groups maintained separate communities, and that public buildings were constructed only after a society had fully put down roots.

"There has been the theory that sedentary and mobile groups co-existed in various parts of the world, but most people thought the sedentary and mobile communities were separate, even though they were in relatively close areas," said Inomata, a UA professor of anthropology and lead author of the study. "Our study presents the first relatively concrete evidence that mobile and sedentary people came together to build a ceremonial center."

Mayan Site_1

© Takeshi Inomata/University of Arizona

Excavating an early residential structure at Ceibal, from about 500 B.C.

A public plaza uncovered at Ceibal dates to about 950 B.C., with surrounding ceremonial buildings growing to monumental sizes by about 800 B.C. Yet, evidence of permanent residential dwellings in the area during that time is scarce. Most people were still living a traditional hunter-gatherer-like lifestyle, moving from place to place throughout the rainforest, as they would continue to do for five or six more centuries.

The area's few permanent residents could not have built the plaza alone, Inomata said.

"The construction of ceremonial buildings is pretty substantial, so there had to be more people working on that construction," he said.

Inomata and his colleagues theorize that groups with varying degrees of mobility came together to construct the buildings and to participate in public ceremonies over the next several hundred years. That process likely helped them to bond socially and eventually make the transition to a fully sedentary society.

Mayan Site_2

© Takeshi Inomata/University of Arizona

This is an early elite residence at Ceibal, about 750 B.C.

"This tells us something about the importance of ritual and construction. People tend to think that you have a developed society and then building comes. I think in many cases it's the other way around," Inomata said.

"For those people living the traditional way of life, ceremony, ritual and construction became major forces for them to adapt a new way of life and build a new society. The process of gathering for ritual and gathering for construction helped bring together different people who were doing different things, and eventually that contributed to the later development of Mayan civilization.

The transition was gradual, with the Maya making the shift to a fully sedentary agrarian society, reliant on maize, by about 400 or 300 B.C., Inomata said.

"The most fascinating finding is that different peoples with diverse ways of life co-existed in apparent harmony for generations before establishing a more uniform society," said Melissa Burham, a study co-author and a graduate student in the UA School of Anthropology. "Discovering an ancient 'melting pot' is definitely the unexpected highlight of this research."

University of Arizona

Saudi Arabia starts bombing Yemen Shiite Houthi rebels

© Reuters / Fahad Shadeed

Saudi Arabian forces, joined by nine other countries, have launched a military operation in Yemen against Shiite Houthi rebels, the Saudi ambassador to the US said. The offensive, which started with airstrikes, will also involve "other military assets."

According to Ambassador Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, the military operation in Yemen started at 7 p.m. EST (11 p.m. GMT). The US is not participating in the operation, the envoy stressed.

Al Arabiya reported that warplanes of the Royal Saudi Air Force bombed positions of Yemen's Houthi militia, targeting their air defenses.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait issued a joint statement saying that they "decided to repel Houthi militias, Al-Qaeda and ISIS (Islamic State) in the country." The Gulf states said they were responding to a "major threat" to the stability of the region, saying that their cause is to "repel Houthi aggression" in Yemen.

Sick Connecticut Republican calls sex assaults with witnesses a 'great party'

Connecticut Republican state representative said during discussion of a bill regarding campus sexual assault on Tuesday that if there are witnesses to a reported sexual assault then it must have been a "really great party."

According to Hartford's WFSB, Republican state Rep. Mike Bocchino now says that the remarks are being taken out of context.

He was responding to a Democratic-sponsored bill that would require both parties to consent to sex by saying "yes" before engaging in intimate contact. Advocates of the law hope to curb sexual assaults and clarify the lines of consent in order to address the problem of rape and sexual assault on college campuses.

Bocchino was raising what he said is an issue with both parties stating their consent. Who is to believe their stories, he asked, if there are no other witnesses?

"No question that sexual assault is a horrific thing. No question that date rape things that happen on college campuses are disgusting," the lawmaker said.

But, he said, "Because at the end of the day, there are no witnesses...or at least if there are, it's a really great party."

College student Emily Tourgeman, who attended the hearing, said, "I think that is so rude. I don't understand how someone in that high of a position, someone who is supposed to be in the public eye in a positive way, can make a degrading comment. That's a really childish comment."

State Democrats reacted with disgust. In a statement released Tuesday, a party spokesperson said, "I assume that it was an attempt at humor, but Rep. Bocchino should know better — and his constituents elected him to know better. Campus sexual assault is not a joke. It affects both genders, but up to one in five female students are victims. It's a serious problem, and I hope Rep. Bocchino publicly apologize for his distasteful and offensive comment."

A spokeswoman for the state Republican Party said that in spite of his comments, Bocchino voted in favor of the consent bill.

Colorado Republican says brutal attack on pregnant woman was God's revenge for abortion laws

© State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt

Colorado Republican lawmaker blamed abortion laws for a brutal attack last week on a pregnant woman in his state.

State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R-Colorado Springs), a demon-obsessed former Navy chaplain elected last year to the state House of Representatives, discussed the case Wednesday on his program, reported Right Wing Watch .

Michelle Wilkins, who was seven months pregnant, was lured to the home of a Longmont woman advertising baby clothes for sale on Craigslist.

Instead, police said 34-year-old Dynel Lane stabbed the 26-year-old pregnant woman and "removed" the fetus from her body and went to a hospital, where she claimed she had a miscarriage.

Wilkins survived, but her baby did not.

The lawmaker tied the case to a passage from Hosea, in which God curses the Samaritans for their rebellion and warns "their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open."

"I wonder if there is prophetic significance to America today in that scripture," Klingenschmitt said. "This is the curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb — and part of that curse for our rebellion against God as a nation is that our pregnant women are ripped open."

RWW Blog:

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7-year-old forced by two other first graders to perform sex act on them

© Shutterstock

The Children's Services department in Lucas County, Ohio has launched an investigation after a 7-year-old first grade student said that two of her classmates forced her to perform sex acts on them at a charter school.

Rise and Shine Academy CEO Dr. Pat McKinstry told WTOL that the school first learned of the incident when a student reported that something "nasty" was happening in one of the bathrooms.

According to the mother of the victim, two girls, ages 6 and 8, asked her daughter to perform sexual favors on them.

"My daughter is considered the victim," the mother told WTOL . "They think that they bribed my daughter into doing things... Not once but twice. And the first time she said she didn't say anything because she was scared."

The school, however, said that only one of the girls instigated the incident, and she had not been allowed to return to class.

"We have not let that child come back," McKinstry pointed out. "It's disheartening, it's sad to me that we have to terminate her if her mother would not be honest enough to get this baby some treatment."

The teacher responsible for the children was reportedly no longer working at the school because she violated rules about monitoring students while they were in the bathroom. And the school has created a new school policy that only allows one student to be in the bathroom at a time.

McKinstry said that a psychologist had been called in to help the students cope.

"This incident, even though it happened, these 6-year-olds' innocent minds are only reacting to what they have been exposed to," McKinstry explained.

But the mother of the victim said that her daughter would not return to school until more actions were taken.

"Something needs to be done," she insisted. "Especially if they're not keeping a close eye on the children and this is what's going on at the school."

A statement from the school noted that the incident was "still under investigation."

"We're not at liberty to discuss further details, but additional policies have been put into place to ensure the continued safety of our children," the statement said.

Passenger bus falls into giant sinkhole in Brazil; swept away by floodwater


Dramatic video of a Brazilian passenger bus being swallowed by a sinkhole and spit out into a nearby river is going viral across the web.

The incident happened in the state of Para in northern Brazil during recent flooding. Luckily, all the passengers of the bus escaped before the vehicle was swept away, according to the BBC.

The bus became stuck on the road near the cities of Itaituba and Ruropolis, leading all the passengers to evacuate. The ground gave out soon after and the bus was carried down the nearby river.


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The video comes on the heels of a bus crash in Brazil that killed 54 people earlier this month. That bus plunged nearly 400 metres down the steep slope of mountain near the city of Joinville, about 950 kilometres southwest of Rio de Janeiro.

Fear Inc.: FBI tweaks figures on mass shootings to show phony increase

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) misinterpreted statistics on gun shooting in the country, which could be President Barack Obama's attempt to gain support for stricter gun control regulations, the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) told Sputnik on Wednesday.

Obama's gun-control proposals presuppose boosting background check procedures, the prohibition of military-style assault weapons, additional training for law enforcers and maximizing efforts to prosecute gun crimes, among other steps.

"I think that it was an attempt probably by President Obama to help elect Democrats who supported more gun control," John R. Lott said.

Exaggerating the increase in mass shootings in the United States aims to alarm people and increase general panic in the country, Lott added.

In October 2014, Lott released a paper analyzing the September FBI report on the number of active shooter attacks and deaths in the country. In its report, the FBI said that the statistics had increased by an annual rate of some 16 percent since 2000.

In October, Lott said in his publication that the annual growth rate of homicides was, in fact, significantly lower. According to Lott, if biases and errors were corrected in the FBI report, the data would reveal that the annual growth rate had been cut in half.

The CPRC information showed that the FBI put out incorrect numbers on public shootings in the United States not long before the general elections in November 2014. Lott said that the information published by the FBI was misinterpreted to overstate the incidents and risks of mass shootings in the country.

Monsanto demands WHO retract study linking Roundup to cancer

spraying crops

© www.overseasagro.com

Monsanto, the global toxinator

Agrochemical giant Monsanto produces one of the most widely used herbicides, known as Roundup. But a report issued last Friday by the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that the product's chief ingredient, glyphosate, was "probably carcinogenic to humans."

"We question the quality of the assessment," Phillip Miller, Monsanto vice president of global regulatory affairs, said during an interview on Tuesday. "The WHO has something to explain." And to that effect, Monsanto officials have requested a meeting with both the WHO and IARC, and have demanded a retraction.

According to Miller, his company provided its own research to the IARC which proved the safety of glyphosate, but was largely ignored in the report. He also cited the fact that both US and international regulatory agencies have approved the ingredient.

But the US Environmental Protection Agency is currently conducting a new review of the product, and Monsanto is concerned that the WHO's finding could have a large influence over the agencies ultimate decision.

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"This contradiction has the potential to unnecessarily confuse and alarm parents and consumers, farmers and the public at large," Brett Begemann, president and chief operating officer with Monsanto, told reporters.

Despite Monsanto's insistence that its products are safe, many experts note that the WHO's new findings should not be ignored. "There are a number of independent, published manuscripts that clearly indicate that glyphosate...can promote cancer and tumor growth," Dave Schubert, head of the cellular neurobiology laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, told Reuters. "It should be banned."

THE EPA has the power to do just that.

The findings are especially alarming given the way that Roundup is used. The herbicide is used to kill weeds which can hinder the growth of crops, and when paired with its sister product, Roundup Ready seeds, farmers are able to spray entire fields. Monsanto's seeds are genetically engineered to withstand the herbicide, and as such, any food harvested from such crops could have been soaked in the glyphosate-rich Roundup.

"We use these tools on our land, working alongside our family members, so the safety of these products is critical to us," Chris Novak, chief executive officer of the National Corn Growers Association, said, according to the Des Moines Register.

According to the US Geological Survey, agricultural use of glyphosate in 2012 reached in excess of 283 million pounds.

The demand for a retraction comes from a company which is no stranger to aggressive legal proceedings. Monsanto has a history of suing individual farmers in an effort to protect its seed patents. Through these legal suits against farmers who can barely afford to stay afloat, Monsanto has raked in nearly $23 million.

"We expect farmers will continue to use [our products] and do not anticipate that there will be an impact on our sales," Begemann said, though it's hard to imagine Monsanto officials remaining confident in their product while at the same time expressing clear concern about a WHO scientific study.

Comment: The real question is how has Monsanto gotten away with acceptance by regulatory agencies for so long using its own determinations rather than independent studies, such as the German study that discovered a significant amount of glyphosate in the urine of people and animals all across Europe (5-20 times more than the limit for drinking water in 18 countries studied). Glyphosate is increasingly in food production and weed killers for farming but is also sprayed onto rail lines, urban pavements and roadsides. The residue on crops enters the food chain of animals and humans and contaminates groundwater. Besides cancer, Glyphosate is also linked to autism, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. The EPA, (scratch your heads on this one) recently raised the allowable concentrations of Monsanto's Glyphosate on food crops, edible oils and animal feed, since it is part of a revolving door with Monsanto.

Glyphosate was recently found to be an endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with the hormone system in mammals. These disruptors can cause developmental disorders, birth defects and cancer tumours. Monsanto's roundup has been responsible for fuelling breast cancer by increasing the number of breast cancer cells through cell growth and cell division. Researchers also determined that Monsanto's roundup is considered an xenoestrogen, which is a foreign estrogen that mimics real estrogen in our bodies. This can cause a number of problems that include an increased risk of various cancers, early onset of puberty, thyroid issues, infertility and more.

Monsanto has "revolving door" with: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Dept. of Commerce, US Trade Representative, Dept. of Defense, Dept. of State, Food and Drug Admin., EPA, Supreme Court, White House and the Social Security Admin.

-Monsanto, a corporate profile PDF

From what Monsanto has done and continues to do, there is no way back.

Nestle continues stealing world's water during drought

© Damian Dovarganes/AP

The Arrowhead Mountain Water Company bottling plant, owned by Swiss conglomerate Nestle, on the Morongo Indian Reservation near Cabazon, Calif.

The city of Sacramento is in the fourth year of a record drought - yet the Nestlé Corporation continues to bottle city water to sell back to the public at a big profit, local activists charge.

The Nestlé Water Bottling Plant in Sacramento is the target of a major press conference on Tuesday, March 17, by a water coalition that claims the company is draining up to 80 million gallons of water a year from Sacramento aquifers during the drought.

The coalition, the crunchnestle alliance, says that City Hall has made this use of the water supply possible through a "corporate welfare giveaway," according to a press advisory.

A coalition of environmentalists, Native Americans and other concerned people announced the press conference will take place at March 17 at 5 p.m. at new Sacramento City Hall, 915 I Street, Sacramento.

The coalition will release details of a protest on Friday, March 20, at the South Sacramento Nestlé plant designed to "shut down" the facility. The coalition is calling on Nestlé to pay rates commensurate with their enormous profit, or voluntarily close down.

"The coalition is protesting Nestlé's virtually unlimited use of water - up to 80 million gallons a year drawn from local aquifers - while Sacramentans (like other Californians) who use a mere 7 to 10 percent of total water used in the State of California, have had severe restrictions and limitations forced upon them," according to the coalition.

"Nestlé pays only 65 cents for each 470 gallons it pumps out of the ground - the same rate as an average residential water user. But the company can turn the area's water around, and sell it back to Sacramento at mammoth profits," the coalition said.

Activists say that Sacramento officials have refused attempts to obtain details of Nestlé's water used. Coalition members have addressed the Sacramento City Council and requested that Nestle' either pay a commercial rate under a two tier level, or pay a tax on their profit.

© Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Cracks in the dry bed of the Stevens Creek Reservoir in Cupertino, Calif.

In October, the coalition released a "White Paper" highlighting predatory water profiteering actions taken by Nestle' Water Bottling Company in various cities, counties, states and countries. Most of those great "deals" yielded mega profits for Nestle' at the expense of citizens and taxpayers. Additionally, the environmental impact on many of those areas yielded disastrous results.

Coalition spokesperson Andy Conn said, "This corporate welfare giveaway is an outrage and warrants a major investigation. For more than five months we have requested data on Nestlé water use. City Hall has not complied with our request, or given any indication that it will. Sacramentans deserve to know how their money is being spent and what they're getting for it. In this case, they're getting ripped off."

For more information about the crunchnestle alliance, contact Andy Conn (530) 906-8077 camphgr55 (at) gmail.com or Bob Saunders (916) 370-8251

Nestlé is currently the leading supplier of the world's bottled water, including such brands as Perrier and San Pellegrino, and has been criticized by activists for human rights violations throughout the world. For example, Food and Water Watch and other organizations blasted Nestlé's "Human Rights Impact Assessment" in December 2013 as a "public relations stunt."

"The failure to examine Nestlé's track record on the human right to water is not surprising given recent statements by its chair Peter Brabeck challenging the human right to water," said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. She noted that the company famously declared at the 2000 World Water Forum in the Netherlands that water should be defined as a need—not as a human right.

"In November 2013, Colombian trade unionist Oscar Lopez Trivino became the fifteenth Nestlé worker to be assassinated by a paramilitary organization while many of his fellow workers were in the midst of a hunger strike protesting the corporation's refusal to hear their grievances," according to the groups.

The press conference and protest will take place just days after Jay Famiglietti, the senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine, revealed in an op-ed in the LA Times on March 12 that California has only one year of water supply left in its reservoirs.

"As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain."

Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown continues to fast-track his Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels to ship Sacramento River water to corporate agribusiness, Southern California water agencies, and oil companies conducting fracking operations. The $67 billion plan won't create one single drop of new water, but it will take vast tracts of Delta farm land out of production under the guise of "habitat restoration" in order to irrigate drainage-impaired soil owned by corporate mega-growers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

The tunnel plan will also hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Klamath and Trinity rivers. The peripheral tunnels will be good for agribusiness, water privateers, oil companies and the 1 percent, but will be bad for the fish, wildlife, people and environment of California and the public trust.

The Delta smelt may already be extinct in the wild!

In fact, the endangered Delta smelt, once the most abundant fish in the entire Bay Delta Estuary, may already be extinct, according to UC Davis fish biologist and author Peter Moyle, as quoted on Capital Public Radio.

"Prepare for the extinction of the Delta Smelt in the wild," Moyle told a group of scientists with the Delta Stewardship Council.

According to Capital Public Radio:

"He says the latest state trawl survey found very few fish in areas of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta where smelt normally gather.

'That trawl survey came up with just six smelt, four females and two males,' says Moyle. "Normally because they can target smelt, they would have gotten several hundred.'

Moyle says the population of Delta smelt has been declining for the last 30 years but the drought may have pushed the species to the point of no return. If the smelt is officially declared extinct, which could take several years, the declaration could change how water is managed in California.

'All these biological opinions on Delta smelt that have restricted some of the pumping will have to be changed,' says Moyle.

But Moyle says pumping water from the Delta to Central and Southern California could still be restricted at certain times because of all the other threatened fish populations."

The Delta smelt, an indicator species that demonstrates the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, reached a new record low population level in 2014, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's fall midwater trawl survey that was released in January.

Department staff found a total of only eight smelt at a total of 100 sites sampled each month from September through December

The smelt is considered an indicator species because the 2.0 to 2.8 inch long fish is endemic to the estuary and spends all of its life in the Delta.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has conducted the Fall Midwater Trawl Survey (FMWT) to index the fall abundance of pelagic (open water) fish, including Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and American shad, nearly annually since 1967. The index of each species is a number that indicates a relative population abundance.

Watch Nestle's CEO declare water "food that should be privatized, and not a human right":

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Ukraine oligarchs battle for favor with the West: Kolomoisky steps out of shadow, goes on offensive against Porochenko

ukraine thugs

The head of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional State Administration, Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, ordered his battalion Dnepr-1 to take the building of Ukrainian oil company Ukrnafta on Sunday, March 22. Kolomoisky goes on the offensive before the election in the United States. After his masters take the White House, Poroshenko will be destroyed.

Two days earlier, on March 20, the Ukrainian oligarch captured the building of the state-run company Ukrtransnafta. He stated that he wanted to confront raider attacks of "Russian occupiers". In both cases, he was extremely rude and arrogant while talking to his opponents in front of cameras.

Noteworthy, Ukrnafta is the largest oil and gas company of Ukraine. Fifty percent of its shares plus one share belongs to state-run company Naftogaz of Ukraine, while Kolomoisky-owned Privat Group controls 42 percent of its shares. Ukrtransnafta is a company that operates oil pipelines. One hundred percent of the shares of Ukrtransnafta belong to the state through Naftogaz of Ukraine. For many years, the company had been staying under the management of oligarch Alexander Lazorko, who was loyal to Kolomoisky, thus creating favorable conditions for Privat Group. Poroshenko tried to replace Lazorko, but failed. As a result, President Poroshenko reprimanded Kolomoisky for violating the rules of professional ethics. In response, Kolomoisky blocked Poroshenko's accounts at Privatbank.

Afterwards, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine amended the Law on Joint Stock Companies, lowering the quorum for a meeting of shareholders to 50 percent plus one share. Ukrainian MPs did not try hide the fact that the adoption of the law had a direct impact on the arrival of 1.7 billion hryvnia in the budget as dividend from Ukrnafta. Kiev tried to take control of the one of the key companies of Ukraine by holding a meeting of shareholders, which Kolomoisky had sabotaged.

Enraged with yet another attempt on his business, Kolomoisky headed the armed capture of Ukrnafta. Even Ukraine's Energy Minister Demchishin, who went to the scene of the incident, was forced to retreat. Kolomoisky threatened all those present that he had 2,000 fighters at his disposal, who would be in Kiev the following day because his companies were being taken away from him. According to Ukrainian media, Kolomoisky "ignored the warning from US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, who said that the laws of the jungle were long gone.

"After the truce in the southeast of Ukraine came into force, the degree of political confrontation moved to the center in Kiev. Now it is mainly concentrated around the Ukrainian government and five or six Ukrainian oligarchic groups, - Ruslan Bortnik, Director at the Institute of Policy Analysis and Management (Ukraine) told Pravda.Ru. - These conflicts are very sharp, and the farther they go, the more they will exacerbate as oligarchic groups compete around very limited and rapidly shrinking financial and economic resources of the country."

Kolomoysky has ruined his ties with all other financial and industrial groups of Ukraine, the expert said.

Why is Kolomoysky so bold and arrogant?

This is because Kolomoisky, like Poroshenko, has his patrons in the United States. It goes about the war party of the Republicans sponsored by Goldman Sachs. Blogger Silvia Ribeiro of writes that PMC Blackwater or Academi that trains and fights for Kolomoisky, is funded by Monsanto - Vangurd Group - Goldman Sachs, and this whole chain is linked to the CIA. Goldman Sachs is one of the major sponsors of the Republicans. According to Russian researcher Tatiana Volkova, Kolomoisky has the support of Vangurd Group and the Clinton-McCain War Party, while Poroshenko enjoys the support of Obama's "peace party."

"The main part of the stable income in Ukraine comes from PMC Academi that belongs to Vanguard-controlled Monsanto since last year. Thousands of its Russian-speaking soldiers in Dnepr battalion uniforms service Kolomoisky, thousands of others, wearing uniforms of Sokol special units of the Interior Ministry, service the Kiev government," wrote Tatiana Volkova. Monsanto will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, if the war in Ukraine ends one day earlier, and billions - if it ends a month earlier. They do not ask infantile "who won?" questions there, the author notes.

American journalist and blogger John Helmer conducted his own investigation and concluded that Marek Dabrowski, one of Europe's leading monetarists, when a member of the monetary council of the National Bank of Poland, and Leszek Balcerowicz, as its president, lobbied for Kolomoisky's Privatbank to obtain a Polish banking license for the Ukrainian bank. From the Poles, the track goes to the United States, as the two Polish officials were the architects of Polish reforms based on the American neo-liberal model. Kolomoisky has a lobby in Germany too. For example, Gunther Scholz of Der Tagesspiegel and forces behind him. Scholz said that the capture of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk was Kolomoisky's achievement. According to the journalist, the president of Ukraine must share power with Kolomoisky, who, according to Scholz, will become Ukraine's next president.

Having such forces behind his back, Kolomoisky stepped out of the shadows and went on the offensive. Unlike Poroshenko, he estimates situations from a real point of view. "Let's look at the situation from the side of DPR and LPR. They conducted a pseudo vote over there with Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky winning, - said Kolomoisky on March 22 in an interview with TSN. - They now are the power there. I am not certain that should they hold elections under the Ukrainian law there now, people won't vote either for Zakharchenko or Plotnitsky," Kolomoisky said.

He also noted that the two breakaway people's republics have materialized as entities of Ukraine: "We have two entities that we do not recognize it - they are People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, but they have established themselves, much to our regret. They exist," Kolomoisky said.

For the time being, Kolomoisky does not perform the ideological order of the US State Department for the "unitary Ukraine." His goal is much more prosaic - money. Yet, he has a disadvantage. Should Kolomoisky take Kiev, as he predicts, he will not be legitimate in the eyes of the West. There is not too much time left to wait. The 2016 presidential election in the United States will end with the victory of either "hawk" Hillary Clinton or a Republican candidate.

Noteworthy, Poroshenko is not attached only to the US budget. He gave shale deposits in Ukraine's southeast to Shell, the Strategic Culture Foundation said. This organization is related to the Deutsche Bank and the Rothschilds. Josef Ackermann, former CEO of Deutsche Bank, is the director of Shell.

The war between two pro-American oligarchs will continue. Those who control the war in Ukraine are associated with financial flows from the West and diplomatic support of the "free world."

Poroshenko's prime goal is to prove that he is useful to the "war party" in the United States, then there is a chance for him to stay in power. For the time being, he loses the fight. In the near future, possibly, Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada will pass the law to nationalize Privatbank. How will Kolomoisky respond? Will he go to war? Why not conducting negotiations with the DPR and LPR? That would be great PR for him in the West. It should be understood that these two oligarchs can be easily removed from power, if Washington decides to freeze their accounts in Western banks.

Enough already! NATO to train 30,000 troops in south Europe in autumn 2015

© Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Parade of the SS Guard, the Nazi elite, at a party rally in Nuremberg, Germany, in the late 1930s.

In October and November NATO will train around 30,000 troops in Spain, Italy and Portugal.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will conduct training of some 30,000 military personnel in Spain, Italy and Portugal this fall, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation Gen. Jean-Paul Palomeros said on Wednesday.

"[In] October, November we will train around 30,000 in the south — in Spain, Italy, Portugal," Gen. Palomeros told journalists at a press conference in Washington, DC.

The NATO Commander noted it is "a great demonstration that NATO is doing its business," preparing for the whole spectrum of possible threats to the Alliance on its southern flank.

On March 2, US 173rd Airborne Brigade Commander Michael Foster told Sputnik that the United States will be expanding in the next four months its commitment to NATO's Operation Atlantic Resolve with a brigade-level deployment to Bulgaria and Romania.

Operation Atlantic Resolve was agreed to by the Alliance in June 2014 in response to some alleged "Russian aggression". The Operation is intended to reassure NATO allies of the Alliance's collective security commitment to all member states, according to NATO.

Comment: Interesting. Not two weeks after it's announced that Europe has intentions to form a new and united military - in thinly veiled attempt to offset the Imperialist and destructive drives of the U.S. and it's military cover, NATO, the NATO commander now comes out and makes this announcement. The message seems clear, it's as though he were really saying, "No -- we will decide how you Europeans defend yourselves, we'll scoop up and train the guys most likely to want to join the military, and don't forget: Russian aggression, Russian aggression, Russian aggression!"

Western attempts to portray Crimea's conditions as 'dire': another epic propaganda fail

crimea citizens happy

© Sputnik/ Evgeny Biyatov

The West is painting a gloomy picture of Crimeans' life under Russia's "occupation," but this picture is totally divorced from reality: Crimea is faring well, especially compared to neighboring Ukraine, Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer claims.

Life in Russian Crimea today is exceedingly normal. While a war rages on next door in Ukraine, the people of Crimea enjoy peace, stability, and a sense of unity and hope for the future... People are still able to conduct business more or less as they did before the conflict [in Ukraine] began. Some say the economy has actually improved despite sanctions," Tony Cartalucci pointed out.

However, NATO is still creating myths of "invasion" and "occupation." And it is NATO who has taught the world, how real occupation and intervention looks like, remarked the researcher. Indeed, what happened in Crimea a year ago could not be compared to a typical US-led NATO invasion with cities heavily bombed, tens of thousands killed and many more displaced.

NATO's invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 resulted in continued chaos and violence accompanied by abuse, mass murder, and systematic torture. In 2003, the United States and its NATO allies launched a military campaign in Iraq which led to a longstanding occupation of the country. The conflict claimed the lives of almost one million people, including thousands of Western soldiers.

The researcher also reminded of a network of prison camps, maintained by the US on the occupied territories and pointed, particularly, to the story of gruesome torture at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

The war, unleashed by NATO-members in the Middle East and Central Asia also resulted in the use of combat unmanned aerial vehicles which regularly kill men, women and children, the researcher stressed.

The horrors of NATO invasions cannot be compared to what happened to Crimeans, who peacefully rejoined the Russian Federation after the referendum on March 16, 2014. Many of them identify themselves either as Russians or of Russian descent, speak Russian and observe Russian customs. Furthermore, Crimea had long existed as a part of Russia and "the soil beneath their [Crimeans] feet has been soaked in Russian blood to defend it from aggression throughout history, including against the Nazis in World War 2," Tony Cartalucci emphasized.

Meanwhile, the West is desperately trying to depict Crimeans' life after the peninsula returned to Russia "as dire, as possible." Alas, the best Western media can present as evidence that Crimea is "suffering" are vanished "McDonalds" and "Apple stores," the researcher noted sarcastically.

All the arguments that Russia has occupied Crimea do not stand up to careful scrutiny, according to Tony Cartalucci. Ironically, at the same time the NATO-backed regime in Kiev has imposed upon its people the conditions and horrors resembling real invasion and occupation, the researcher concluded.

The horrors of life in Palestine: Israeli military raids on sleeping children (videos)

© Ismael Mohamad / United Press International

Here are two videos, released by B'Tselem, to remind us of what an occupation is like as lived experience rather than as an abstract concept. They document masked, armed soldiers breaking into the homes of Palestinians in Hebron in the middle of the night to force children awake, and then photograph and interrogate them. The soldiers go door to door, from one apartment to the the next, as casually as if they were coming to read the electricity meter. For the soldiers, this is just one of dozens of "jobs" they have at night terrifying families.

Behind the immediate terror of being confronted by these faceless soldiers, the children know from friends or family that there is a real danger they will be seized - maybe tonight or another night - if the military decide they are wanted. They will be taken from their parents to a military prison, where they may be held for months and their family will probably be unable to visit them.

What damage does this do to the children - and what dread do the parents have to live with?

Give a thought too, even if a very secondary one, to these soldiers. What normal human instincts of compassion have to be battered into submission, what ugly instincts of tribal superiority have to be cultivated, for someone to behave the ways these soldiers - and many thousands more like them - do?

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France cracks down on cash transactions and withdrawals in light of Charlie Hebdo attacks

Euro Cash

© dpa

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin announced last Wednesday that France will be enacting strict limits on the use of cash in the wake of January's Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack, citing the fact that those responsible used cash to purchase equipment. According to , starting in September, France's new cash policies will ban payments of over 1,000 euros in cash for French citizens and expenditures of over 10,000 euros for foreign visitors.

The cash crackdown also includes new monitoring provisions, requiring banks to report cash deposits, transfers, or withdrawals exceeding 10,000 euros to the government, requiring the presentation of identification for currency transfers exceeding 1,000 euros, and requiring banks to add small bank accounts to a national database. The new policies also include restrictions on the use of pre-paid cards.

Sapin said that the controls are necessary to "fight against the use of cash and anonymity in the French economy," which he says are leading to a form of "low-cost terrorism." He explained his views further in a press conference on the new rules and said, "It's a terrorism that is low cost to carry out but has major impact... This low-cost terrorism feeds on fraud, money laundering and petty trafficking."

Joseph T. Salerno at the Mises Institute wrote a sarcastic critique of the new controls and said, "It was just a matter of time before Western governments used the trumped up 'War on Terror' as an excuse to drastically ratchet up the very real war on the use of cash and personal privacy that they are waging against their own citizens... It seems the terrorists involved partially financed these attacks by cash, as well as by consumer loans and the sale of counterfeit goods. What a shockeroo! The terrorists used cash to purchase some of the stuff they needed — no doubt these murderers were also shod and clothed and used cell phones, cars, and public sidewalks during the planning and execution of their mayhem. Why not restrict their use?"

Half of all Americans are broke

piggy bank money

© Flickr

With the unstable economic situation in the US, many Americans have learned to live on a budget. But what happens when one faces a substantial cost outside their budget?

According to Chief International Economist at Deutsche Bank, Torsten Sløk, nearly half of American households don't save any of their money, leaving themselves with harsh economic consequences should the economy turn and they lose their jobs.

Over a million people lost their homes in 2008 due to the economic collapse, according to Foreclosures.com.

Since the recession, which began in December 2007, the US unemployment rate has risen 4 percentage points, changing the labor market substantively. The rate peaked at 10% in October, 2009, and has decreased substantially to 5.5% in February, 2015.

In a recent Bankrate survey, only 18% of Americans said they don't keep a budget, and only 38% claim they could cover an unexpected emergency room visit expense or a car repair with cash. Most end up borrowing from family or friends, or put the fees on their credit cards.

Living paycheck to paycheck also has its consequences on retirement. Those who don't save won't have the capacity to retire, financial experts say.

According to the survey, only 52% of college graduates say they would save compared to 31% of those with a high school education.

Experts say, the lack of savings puts the whole society on a slippery financial slope, as the US economy is still trying to recover from the recession.

Underground seas go untapped while California's water war rages on

Water Wars_1

© Zero Hedge

In California's epic drought, wars over water rights continue, while innovative alternatives for increasing the available water supply go untapped.

Wars over California's limited water supply have been going on for at least a century. Water wars have been the subject of some vintage movies, including the 1958 hit The Big Country starring Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood's 1985 Pale Rider, 1995's Waterworld with Kevin Costner, and the 2005 film Batman Begins. Most acclaimed was the 1975 Academy Award winner Chinatown with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, involving a plot between a corrupt Los Angeles politician and land speculators to fabricate the 1937 drought in order to force farmers to sell their land at low prices. The plot was rooted in historical fact, reflecting battles between Owens Valley farmers and Los Angeles urbanites over water rights.

Today the water wars continue on a larger scale with new players. It's no longer just the farmers against the ranchers or the urbanites. It's the people against the new "water barons" - Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Monsanto, the Bush family, and their ilk - who are buying up water all over the world at an unprecedented pace.

A Drought of Epic Proportions

At a news conference on March 19, 2015, California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon warned, "There is no greater crisis facing our state today than our lack of water."

Jay Famiglietti, a scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California, wrote in the Los Angeles Times on March 12th:

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

Maps indicate that the areas of California hardest hit by the mega-drought are those that grow a large percentage of America's food. California supplies 50% of the nation's food and more organic food than any other state. Western Growers estimates that last year 500,000 acres of farmland were left unplanted, an amount that could increase by 40% this year. The trade group pegs farm job losses at 17,000 last year and more in 2015.

Farmers with contracts from the Central Valley Project, a large federal irrigation system, will receive no water for the second consecutive year, according to preliminary forecasts. Cities and industries will get 25 percent of their full contract allocation, to ensure sufficient water for human health and safety. Besides shortages, there is the problem of toxic waste dumped into water supplies by oil company fracking. Economists estimate the cost of the drought in 2014 at $2.2 billion.

No Contingency Plan

The massive Delta water tunnel project, designed to fix Southern California's water supply problems by siphoning water from the north, was delayed last August due to complaints from Delta residents and landowners. The project remains stalled, as the California Department of Water Resources reviews some 30,000 comments. When or if the project is finally implemented, it will take years to complete, at an estimated cost of about $60 billion including financing costs.

Meanwhile, alternatives for increasing the water supply rather than fighting over limited groundwater resources are not being pursued. Why not? Skeptical observers note that water is being called the next commodity boom. Christina Sarich, writing on NationOfChange.org, asserts:

Numerous companies are poised to take advantage of the water crisis. Instead of protecting existing water supplies, implementing stricter regulations, and coming up with novel ways to capture rainwater, or desalinizing seawater, the corporate agenda is ready, like a snake coiled, to make trillions off your thirst.

These coiled snakes include Monsanto and other biotech companies, which are developing drought-resistant and aluminum-resistant seeds set to take over when the organic farmers throw in the towel. Organic dairy farmers and ranchers have been the hardest hit by the drought, since the certified organic pasture on which their cows must be fed is dwindling fast.

Some critics suggest that, as in Chinatown, the drought itself is man-made, triggered not only by unprecedented carbon emissions but by "geo-engineering" - spraying the skies with aluminum and other particulates, ostensibly to shield the earth from global warming (though there may be other motives). On February 15, 2015, noted climate scientist Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institute for Science at Stanford asserted that geo-engineering was the only way to rapidly cool the earth. He said:

A small fleet of airplanes could do what large volcanoes do — create a layer of small particles high in the atmosphere that scatters incoming sunlight back to space. Cooling the Earth this way, could be fast, cheap and easy.

That technique also suppresses rainfall. According to U.S. patent #6315213, filed by the US military on November 13, 2002:

The polymer is dispersed into the cloud and the wind of the storm agitates the mixture causing the polymer to absorb the rain. This reaction forms a gelatinous substance which precipitate to the surface below. Thus, diminishing the cloud's ability to rain.

Suspicious observers ask whether this is all part of a larger plan. Christina Sarich notes that while the state thirsts for water, alternatives for increasing the water supply go untapped:

Chemical Engineers at MIT have indeed figured out how to desalinate water - electrodialysis having the potential to make seawater potable quickly and cheaply without removing other contaminants such as dirt and bacteria, and there are inexpensive nanotech filters that can clean hazardous microbes and chemicals from drinking water. Designer Arturo Vittori believes the solution to the water catastrophe lies not in high technology but in a giant basket that collects clean drinking water from condensation in the air.

Tapping Underground Seas

Another untapped resource is California's own "primary" water — water newly produced by chemical processes within the earth that has never been part of the surface hydrological cycle. Created when conditions are right to allow oxygen to combine with hydrogen, this water is continually being pushed up under great pressure from deep within the earth and finds its way toward the surface where there are fissures or faults. This water can be located everywhere on the planet. It is the water flowing in wells in oases in the desert, where there is neither rainfall nor mountain run-off to feed them.

A study reported in Scientific American in March 2014 documented the presence of vast quantities of water locked far beneath the earth's surface, generated not by surface rainfall but from pressures deep within. The study confirmed "that there is a very, very large amount of water that's trapped in a really distinct layer in the deep Earth... approaching the sort of mass of water that's present in all the world's oceans."

In December 2014, BBC News reported the results of a study presented at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, in which researchers estimate there is more water locked deep in the earth's crust than in all its rivers, swamps and lakes together. Japanese researchers reported in Science in March 2002 that the earth's lower mantle may store about five times more water than its surface oceans.

Dramatic evidence that earthquakes can release water from deep within the earth was demonstrated last August, when Napa was hit with a 6.0 quake. Solano County suddenly enjoyed a massive new flow of water in local creeks, including a reported 200,000 gallons per day just from Wild Horse Creek. These increased flows are still ongoing, puzzling researchers who have visited the area.

Where did this enormous waterflow come from? If it were being released from a shallow aquifer, something would have to replace that volume of withdrawal, which was occurring at the rate of over 1,000 gallons per minute - over 10 times the pre-quake flow. Massive sinkholes or subsidence would be expected, but there were no such reports. Evidently these new waters were coming from much deeper sources, released through crevices created by the quake.

So states Pal Pauer of the Primary Water Institute, one of the world's leading experts in tapping primary water. After decades of primary water studies and successful drilling projects, Pauer has demonstrated that this abundant water source can be accessed to supplement our current water supply. Primary water may be tapped directly, or it may be found commingled with secondary water (e.g. aquifers) fed from atmospheric sources. New sophisticated techniques using airborne geophysical and satellite data allow groundwater and primary water to be located in rock through a process called "fracture trace mapping," in which large fractures are identified by thorough analysis of the airborne and satellite data for exploratory drilling.

Pauer maintains that a well sufficient to service an entire community could be dug and generating great volumes of water in a mere two or three days, at a cost of about $100,000. The entire state of California could be serviced for about $800 million - less than 2% of the cost of the very controversial Delta water tunnels - and this feat could be accomplished without robbing the North to feed the South.

The Water Wars Continue

California officials have been unresponsive to such proposals. Instead, the state has undertaken to regulate underground water. In September, a trio of bills were signed establishing a framework for statewide regulation of California's underground water sources, marking the first time in the state's history that groundwater will be managed on a large scale. Water has until now been considered a property right. The Los Angeles Times reported:

[M]any agriculture interests remain staunchly opposed to the bill. Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, said the bills "may come to be seen as 'historic' for all the wrong reasons" by drastically harming food production.

. . . "There's really going to be a wrestling match over who's going to get the water," [Fresno Assemblyman] Patterson said, predicting the regulation plans will bring a rash of lawsuits.

And so the saga of the water wars continues. The World Bank recently adopted a policy of water privatization and full-cost water pricing. One of its former directors, Ismail Serageldin, stated, "The wars of the 21st century will be fought over water."

In the movie Chinatown, the corrupt oligarchs won. The message seemed to be that right is no match against might. But armed with that powerful 21st century tool the Internet, which can generate mass awareness and coordinated action, right may yet prevail.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute , and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt . Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution , explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com .

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Department of Justice wants banks to call the police on anyone who withdraws more than $5,000

© Flickr/ Myfuture.com

The Justice Department has been advocating for bank tellers across the US to call police on their customers who withdraw $5,000 or more in cash.

"A senior official from the Justice Department spoke to a group of bankers about the need for them to rat out their customers to the police," said investor and financial blogger Simon Black.

Banks are already required to file a "Suspicious Activity Report" (SAR) should they suspect an unusual activity. But now the feds are saying these suspicious reports are not enough.

"[W]e encourage those institutions to consider whether to take more action: specifically, to alert law enforcement authorities about the problem, who may be able to seize the funds, initiate an investigation, or take other proactive steps," the official told Black.

So, how do these institutions know when to take action?

As stated in the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council handbook, banks are obligated to file a SAR when "transactions conducted or attempted by, at, or through the bank (or an affiliate) and aggregating $5,000 or more..."

Such order justifies the banks' submission of these suspicious activity reports for perfectly legal actions as simple as withdrawing cash, especially that they are required by the federal government to submit a certain number of SARs a month for investigation.

Banks could lose their banking charter and face fines if they don't meet the quota.

Banks like Chase are imposing other capital control strategies, such as mandating identification for depositing cash and banning cash deposit into another person's account.

In 2014, banks filed more than 700,000 suspicious activity reports.

Canada the Good? How to stay under the radar when Bill C-51 becomes law

Canada CSIS surveillence

Bill C-51 is an omnibus anti-terrorism bill that grants CSIS new information sharing powers and converts CSIS from a covert intelligence gathering organization to a covert enforcement agency.

Ms. Soapbox is here to offer four simple suggestions to keep you out of trouble when Stephen Harper's majority government finally passes this monstrous piece of legislation.

Get off the grid:

Communicate by pencil and paper. Buy a manual typewriter. Stop posting snarky things about Harper on Facebook and Twitter. You don't want to be identified as a troublemaker and your life will become a nightmare if you're caught in a CSIS "disruption" operation (see below).

No more rallies, demonstrations, protests or sit-ins:

Avoid any form of protest or civil disobedience, especially those organized by environmental or Aboriginal groups.

Why? Because unless you know for certain that the demo organizers got the municipal permits they need to congregate, wave signs or chain themselves to inanimate objects, the protest is not "lawful advocacy, protest or artistic expression" and as such is not immune from CSIS scrutiny (subject to Craig Forcese's comments below).

If you're hell bent on camping out with Occupy, waving a placard in the freezing cold outside the Legislature, staging a sit-in at your MP's constituency office, or going on a wildcat strike, be warned that that your information may be shared with up to 17 government agencies and "any person, for any purpose" (Putin?) if CSIS thinks such activity "undermines the security of Canada" because unlawful protests are not exempt from the information sharing provision.

Craig Forcese says CSIS's power to share information about protesters and disrupt their activities applies only to unlawful "foreign-influenced activities...that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive." Other analysts do not make this distinction.

In any event, Mr. Forcese's distinction offers little comfort given Mr. Harper's penchant for finding "foreign influencers" buried deep in the bosom of many Canadian charities and NGOs and the willingness of CSIS and the RCMP to undertake covert operations when the spirit moves them whether they have the legal power to do so or not. Play it safe. Avoid them all.

Or be prepared to have your private information held by 17 governmental agencies (including Revenue Canada and the Department of Health) zip from one department to another without your knowledge or consent. It's like the persecution of First Nations advocate Dr. Cindy Blackstock -- only this time on steriods.

Don't be tarred by association:

Cut all ties with activists like Greenpeace, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Assembly of First Nations and their ilk.

Joanna Kerr, executive director of Greenpeace Canada, was one of the first witnesses to appear before the Commons committee reviewing Bill C-51.

She describes her experience in 10 words: Are you now, or have you ever been, a terrorist?

The Greenpeace panel was not given an opportunity to present its concerns about Bill C-51 or make suggestions on how to prevent violations of constitutional and civil rights. Instead they were hectored by condescending Tory MPs who asked whether they were "fundamentally opposed to taking terrorists off the streets" and suggested that Greenpeace might be "a national security threat."

Given that the RCMP identified Canada's environment movement as "a growing and violent threat to Canada's security" and labelled pipeline opponents (and First Nations) as "violent anti-petroleum extremists" such outrageous allegations cannot be taken lightly.

Remember what happened to thousands of Americans who were denounced to the House Un-American Committee. They lost their reputations, their livelihoods and sometimes their lives. So keep your head down and your mouth shut. And for God's sake stop writing cheques to these groups and signing their petitions!

Watch for "threat disruption":

No, it's not a disturbance in the Force, a glitch in the Matrix or even your idiotic service provider forgetting to throw a switch somewhere, it's CSIS exercising its power to "disrupt" the activities of someone it suspects of doing something it doesn't like.

Most people aren't terrorists, but the government is quick to label people "terrorists" even if they have no clear link to extremists. Our very own Justice Minister, Peter MacKay, suggested the two would-be shooters in the Halifax mall plot were the kind of people who were "susceptible to being motivated" by the Islamic State. Meaning what exactly ????

CSIS will be given the power to disrupt activities by any means (including breaching one's Charter rights) short of causing bodily harm, infringing sexual integrity or obstructing justice.

In the McCarthy era, the FBI's disruption techniques included burglaries, illegal wire taps, planting forged documents, spreading rumours, triggering IRS audits and leaking false information to the press. These techniques are child's play compared to what CSIS can achieve in the clandestine world of Five Eyes and PRISM.

Protect yourselves!

Bill C-51 gives CSIS, a covert organization, enhanced information gathering and enforcement powers with no corresponding increase in measures to protect Canadians from violations of privacy or the abuse of their fundamental rights.

Consequently Canadians must take steps to protect themselves.

And if you follow these simple precautions terrorists will no longer "hate our freedoms" because we won't have any.

Mission Accomplished Mr. Harper.

Who's Accountable for Ferguson's Crimes? No One, It Seems

© AP Photo/John Minchillo

The Nationhere.

In the wake of the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly had some advice for black America: "Don't abandon your children. Don't get pregnant at 14. Don't allow your neighborhoods to deteriorate into free-fire zones. That's what the African-American community should have on their T-shirts." (That's either a very big garment or very small lettering.)

Whenever black kids get shot, black parents get lectured about personal responsibility. If you raised your kids better, goes the conservative logic, we wouldn't have to shoot them. Arguments about systemic discrimination and racist legacies are derided as liberal excuses for bad behavior. Neither history nor economics nor politics made Mike Brown grab Darren Wilson's gun—that was his choice. Individuals, we are told, are responsible for their own actions and must be held accountable for them.

The vehemence with which this principle is held is eclipsed only by the speed with which it is abandoned when it becomes inconvenient. Discussions about choices and accountability change tenor when we shift from talking about the black and the poor to the powerful and well-connected.

The release of the Senate's torture report in December revealed far more extensive and brutal interrogation techniques than had been admitted previously, and it also confirmed that the CIA had lied to Congress, the White House and the media. This didn't happen by itself. To take just one example, someone or some persons had to purée a mixture of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins; pour it into a tube; forcibly bend Majid Khan over; shove the tube up his anus and then "let gravity do the work." And then they lied about it. The report showed without question that American interrogators were operating outside both domestic and international law. And yet none have been arrested and charged, let alone prosecuted.

Similarly, millions of Americans and many foreign leaders were spied upon by the NSA. A federal judge has ruled such actions unconstitutional. But metadata does not collect itself; instead, its collection was both ordered and executed by people who then lied about it until they were exposed. Not a single person has been held responsible. I have yet to hear Bill O'Reilly custom-design a T-shirt for those people.

Indeed, the only known arrests in these cases have been of those who exposed the crimes. Edward Snowden is on the run; Chelsea Manning—the source for WikiLeaks, which showed the US military killing innocents and laughing about it—is in jail; John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on waterboarding, is out of jail but still under house arrest. The crime, it seems, is not to break the law but to report the infraction.

The point here is not to demand the slaughter of a scapegoat. All of the incidents above were underpinned by shortcomings that are fundamentally systemic and must be addressed. But it is difficult to see how that can happen in the future if nobody pays a penalty now for past wrongdoing. The moral hazard in failing to hold people to account is self-evident: it sets a bad example. Black kids aren't the only ones who need role models.

But then the Manichaean reasoning of the right was always bogus. Holding people responsible for their actions does not contradict the notion that those actions have a context—just because we have free will, it does not follow that we have free rein. So when the left argues that problems are structural, we do not mean that individuals should not be held to account, but that without also holding accountable the institutions that made their actions possible, one merely changes the players, not the game.

Which brings us back to those Bill O'Reilly T-shirts. The federal investigations into Ferguson lay bare a corrupt, racist kleptocracy in which police harassed African-Americans with impunity, stuffing the city's coffers with their money and its jails with their bodies. But when officials or their friends broke the law, they had no problem pardoning themselves. "Don't steal, cheat, harass or discriminate": that's what these white people should have on their T-shirts.

This was the system that killed Mike Brown and produced his killer. The Justice Department found no evidence to prosecute Darren Wilson, but ample evidence to incriminate the Ferguson police and the broader criminal-justice system. As of this writing, the county clerk has been fired, the city manager has "parted ways," and two police officers, the municipal judge and the chief of police have resigned. Wilson, it appears, was the only incorruptible man in the city. Nobody has been charged. The law apparently does not apply to them.

"Where all are guilty, no one is," argued the political theorist Hannah Arendt. "Confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing."

Welcome to Ferguson, where Mike Brown allegedly stole cigarillos and is dead, while the members of the white power structure stole an entire civic apparatus and the constitutional rights of black residents but remain at their desks.

NATO 'humanitarian' bombing of Serbia facilitated a dramatic increase in cancer rates

© AP Photo/ Jerome Delay

The growing cancer rates in Serbia are part of the untold legacy of the Yugoslav wars.

The use of depleted uranium munitions by NATO in Kosovo and adjoining areas facilitated a dramatic jump in cancer incidence in central parts of Serbia.

A pertinent report released in 2014 also revealed a notable increase in the number of patients with malignant tumors, according to Slobodan Cekaric, the head of the Serbian Society Against Cancer, told Sputnik.

Lymph node cancer incidences between 1999 and 2012 also rose 80 percent, with terminal cases showing an eleven percent rise.

Other cancer-induced diseases are also on the rise both among men and women. Cancer is one of the main causes of death around the globe, claiming eight million human lives annually.

However, malignant diseases in Serbia have grown at a higher rate than in Western Europe, increasing year to year, Serbian doctors said.

Professor Cekaric feared 2015 could bring about a new wave of cancer victims.

According to expert estimates, in 2013 and 2014 alone, cancer incidences in Kosovo, now free from the "Serbian diktat", rose a hefty 57 percent.

"If this trend is maintained, Serbia will have 5,500 registered cancer patients per million residents compared to just 2,000 per million elsewhere in the world," Slobodan Cekaric said.

An estimated 15,000 tons of depleted uranium were dropped on Serbia during NATO's 1999 bombing campaign. Two months after the bombings, Greek experts registered a nearly 30 percent jump in radioactivity levels, much more than what is necessary to cause cancer and genetic permutations resulting in the birth of physically and mentally retarded children.

"Ten million Serbians were exposed to radiation during the NATO bombings and still remain so today... Why don't we demand compensation from those who bombed us? I talked about this with many influential people, but they are not experts. Those who are just don't say anything, because that's exactly what politicians prefer to do, to hush it all up - those who were at the top then, those who are now and maybe even those who come next," Slobodan Cekaric concluded.

Orange alert issued by Chilean government as Villarrica volcano leaks steady plumes of ash, smoke

A steady stream of smoke and ash being released from the Villarrica volcano.

A steady stream of smoke and ash leaking from the Villarrica volcano has residents of a nearby town wondering if - or when - disaster might strike.

Chilean officials raised threat levels to orange on Wednesday due to increasing signs of activity in the 2840-meter tall volcano, leaving area residents fearful of an eruption.

'No one can sleep peacefully because the other day the eruption surprised us at 3 in the morning,' said Francisco Valenzuela, a tour guide in the nearby resort town of Pucon.

'The tourists are also a little uncertain,' Valenzuela said. 'Could something happen today? Could something happen tomorrow?'

The BBC reports that local authorities canceled classes for the more than 5,500 students in the area.

Many of the residents in towns and communities surrounding the volcano had to be evacuated earlier in the month, when lava and smoke erupted from the peak in the early hours of the morning.

'It was spewing lava and ash hundreds of meters into the air,' 29-year-old Australian tourist Travis Armstrong said. 'Lightning was striking down at the volcano from the ash cloud that formed from the eruption.'

Adding to the threat of ash and lava, the peak is covered by a glacier cap and snow, causing some officials to worry the eruption could cause mudslides or force rivers to flood and jump their banks.

The peak, located about 500 miles south of Santiago, is a popular hiking destination for tourists who could until recently peer into the crater and wonder about the volcano's destructive capacity

Smoke and lava: An eruption earlier this month triggered an evacuation, and residents worry it could happen again

'This is not a fireworks show,' according to Rodrigo Alvarez, director of the National Service of Geology and Mining, who directed everyone - but especially tourists - not to stray near the volcano.

The peak, located about 500 miles south of Santiago, is a popular hiking destination for tourists. With the last large eruption occurring in 1984, tourists could until recently peer into the crater and wonder about the volcano's destructive capacity.

Chile's president, Michelle Bachelet, visited Pucon after the first eruption to check on safety preparations and declare a state of emergency for area farmers in order to provide aid.

'You never know when an eruption will take place but what we do know is that the activity is lower, that's visible,' Bachelet said earlier in the month.

The residents who have returned home remain wary of the volcano, but many believe they can spot a warning sign in time to evacuate again safely.

'We are here everyday following it in the morning and afternoon to see if there's some change,' said Pablo Mendez. 'Something that would give us some minutes to evacuate.'

Israel spied on White House talks with Iran

© Reuters

Ally's snooping upset White House because information was used to lobby Congress to try to sink a deal

Soon after the U.S. and other major powers entered negotiations last year to curtail Iran's nuclear program, senior White House officials learned Israel was spying on the closed-door talks.

The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal , current and former U.S. officials said. In addition to eavesdropping, Israel acquired information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe, the officials said.

The espionage didn't upset the White House as much as Israel's sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran's nuclear program, current and former officials said.

"It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy," said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter.

The U.S. and Israel, longtime allies who routinely swap information on security threats, sometimes operate behind the scenes like spy-versus-spy rivals. The White House has largely tolerated Israeli snooping on U.S. policy makers—a posture Israel takes when the tables are turned.

The White House discovered the operation, in fact, when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks, officials briefed on the matter said.

Israeli officials denied spying directly on U.S. negotiators and said they received their information through other means, including close surveillance of Iranian leaders receiving the latest U.S. and European offers. European officials, particularly the French, also have been more transparent with Israel about the closed-door discussions than the Americans, Israeli and U.S. officials said.

Mr. Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer early this year saw a rapidly closing window to increase pressure on Mr. Obama before a key deadline at the end of March, Israeli officials said.

Using levers of political influence unique to Israel, Messrs. Netanyahu and Dermer calculated that a lobbying campaign in Congress before an announcement was made would improve the chances of killing or reshaping any deal. They knew the intervention would damage relations with the White House, Israeli officials said, but decided that was an acceptable cost.

The campaign may not have worked as well as hoped, Israeli officials now say, because it ended up alienating many congressional Democrats whose support Israel was counting on to block a deal.

Obama administration officials, departing from their usual description of the unbreakable bond between the U.S. and Israel, have voiced sharp criticism of Messrs. Netanyahu and Dermer to describe how the relationship has changed.

"People feel personally sold out," a senior administration official said. "That's where the Israelis really better be careful because a lot of these people will not only be around for this administration but possibly the next one as well."

This account of the Israeli campaign is based on interviews with more than a dozen current and former U.S. and Israeli diplomats, intelligence officials, policy makers and lawmakers.

Weakened ties

Distrust between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama had been growing for years but worsened when Mr. Obama launched secret talks with Iran in 2012. The president didn't tell Mr. Netanyahu because of concerns about leaks, helping set the stage for the current standoff, according to current and former U.S. and Israeli officials.

U.S. officials said Israel has long topped the list of countries that aggressively spy on the U.S., along with China, Russia and France. The U.S. expends more counterintelligence resources fending off Israeli spy operations than any other close ally, U.S. officials said.

A senior official in the prime minister's office said Monday: "These allegations are utterly false. The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel's other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share."

Current and former Israeli officials said their intelligence agencies scaled back their targeting of U.S. officials after the jailing nearly 30 years ago of American Jonathan Pollard for passing secrets to Israel.

While U.S. officials may not be direct targets, current and former officials said, Israeli intelligence agencies sweep up communications between U.S. officials and parties targeted by the Israelis, including Iran.

Americans shouldn't be surprised, said a person familiar with the Israeli practice, since U.S. intelligence agencies helped the Israelis build a system to listen in on high-level Iranian communications.

As secret talks with Iran progressed into 2013, U.S. intelligence agencies monitored Israel's communications to see if the country knew of the negotiations. Mr. Obama didn't tell Mr. Netanyahu until September 2013.

Israeli officials, who said they had already learned about the talks through their own channels, told their U.S. counterparts they were upset about being excluded. " 'Did the administration really believe we wouldn't find out?' " Israeli officials said, according to a former U.S. official.

The episode cemented Mr. Netanyahu's concern that Mr. Obama was bent on clinching a deal with Iran whether or not it served Israel's best interests, Israeli officials said. Obama administration officials said the president was committed to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Unexpected reaction

The congressional briefings and Mr. Netanyahu's decision to address a joint meeting of Congress on the emerging deal sparked a backlash among many Democratic lawmakers, congressional aides said.

On Feb. 3, Mr. Dermer huddled with Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, who said he told Mr. Dermer it was a breach of protocol for Mr. Netanyahu to accept an invitation from Mr. Boehner without going through the White House.

Mr. Manchin said he told Mr. Dermer he would attend the prime minister's speech to Congress, but he was noncommittal about supporting any move by Congress to block a deal.

Mr. Dermer spent the following day doing damage control with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, congressional aides said.

Two days later, Mr. Dermer met with Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the SenateIntelligence Committee, at her Washington, D.C., home. He pressed for her support because he knew that she, too, was angry about Mr. Netanyahu's planned appearance.

Ms. Feinstein said afterward she would oppose legislation allowing Congress to vote down an agreement.

Congressional aides and Israeli officials now say Israel's coalition in Congress is short the votes needed to pass legislation that could overcome a presidential veto, although that could change. In response, Israeli officials said, Mr. Netanyahu was pursuing other ways to pressure the White House.

This week, Mr. Netanyahu sent a delegation to France, which has been more closely aligned with Israel on the nuclear talks and which could throw obstacles in Mr. Obama's way before a deal is signed. The Obama administration, meanwhile, is stepping up its outreach to Paris to blunt the Israeli push.

"If you're wondering whether something serious has shifted here, the answer is yes," a senior U.S. official said. "These things leave scars."