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Monday, 4 May 2015

Are robots about to take away 18 million jobs in Germany?

Robots are set to wipe out large sectors of the work force.

A study commissioned by ING-Diba claims that 59 percent of Germany's work force could be replaced by machines and software in the coming decades. The impact on German society is set to be radical.

The results of the study paint an almost doomsday-esque scenario for Germany.

Almost two thirds of its workforce will be unemployed. Of the 30.9 million people currently in full or part-time employment in Germany, 18 million will be made redundant by improved technology, the report claims.

Although the study looked into the effect that advancing technology will have on the work place in several European countries including Finland and the Netherlands, it was Germany that came out the worst.

This, argues the report, is the price Germany will pay for its strong industrial sector. Factory workers and the administrative army behind global giants such as Volkswagen and BMW will soon become superfluous as advanced algorithms and sophisticated machinery are developed which can do their jobs faster and more efficiently.

A story of rich and poor

Despite the fact that Germany will face the brunt of the rise of the machines, the revolution will affect the lower classes much more significantly than the wealthier sections of society.

Generally, the lower your qualification the more likely you are to be replaced, claims the report.

Administrative workers such as secretaries are set to have their positions almost entirely taken over by computer algorithms. Eighty-six percent of them could lose their jobs to advancing technology, the study suggests.

The news is almost as bad for mechanics, machine drivers and mechanical technicians, over two thirds of whom are set to have their jobs taken are from them.

For the educated classes the story is quite different.

Doctors are particularly irreplaceable. In the academic classes, of the almost 4 million currently in employment, less than half a million need fear a certified robot taking over their practise.

The story is similar for business leaders. Of the 1.4 million people who occupy this elite sector, only 160,000 would be threatened with redundancy.

Revolution or evolution?

The report hesitates to say, though, when these changes will take place. But it is unlikely to be from one day to the next.

Robots are still prohibitively expensive to build on an industrial scale. Then there is the likely societal resistance which will attempt to fight off against the mechanization of our lives.

But the study's authors are in no doubt that change is on its way.

"The take over has already begun," Carsten Brzeski, head of economics at ING-Diba, who co-authored the report, told .

"There are already some industrial sectors which have been completely taken over by robots."

In Asia for example, progress on robot technologies is particularly advanced.

Toshiba have already developed human-looking secretarial robots which went to work in April in Tokyo, welcoming customers at an information desk at the Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi main store.

© The Local, Germany

Meanwhile China is the world leader in purchasing industrial robots - 35,560 were sold there in 2013.

Machine becomes master

It is not all bad news, though. The take over of machines will create new jobs, the report authors claim, as humans will be needed to maintain the machines and to make sure that they work in an optimal environment.

"Technological progression will create room for the development of new tasks and activities for humans," Inga Burk, co-author of the report, told .

In particular there will be increased employment in technological research and development.

But Brzeski warned that many of the people who lose their jobs will struggle to find new employment.

"Our experience with technological developments which have already taken place shows that it is unrealistic to hope that workers who have been replaced by robots can simply find work in other sectors," the economist said.

"This change will have its winners, but sadly also its losers."

They fear us: countries around world are revoking freedom of assembly


Faced with mounting unrest and unwilling to offer reforms, democratic governments are rolling back traditional rights...

On March 26, without much fanfare or attention from U.S. media, the Spanish government ended freedom of assembly. In the face of popular opposition (80 percent of Spaniards oppose it), the upper house passed the Citizens' Security Law. Under the provision, which goes into effect on July 1, police will have the discretionary ability to hand out fines up to $650,000 to "unauthorized" demonstrators who protest near a transport hub or nuclear power plant. They will be allowed to issue fines of up to $30,000 for taking pictures of police during protest, failing to show police ID, or just gathering in an unauthorized way near government buildings.

The law doesn't technically outlaw protest, but it's hard to see what difference that makes in practice. Imagine if the NYPD, without judicial oversight, could give $650,000 fines to every Black Lives Matter protester participating in a die-in at Grand Central. Never mind that they could never pay: Would anyone have come back day after day, racking up millions of dollars more in fines?

Spain is only the latest "democracy" to consign freedom of assembly to the dustbin. While earlier eras of protest and riot sometimes wrested concessions from the state, today the government's default response is to implement increasingly draconian laws against the public exercise of democracy. It raises the question: How many rights must be abrogated before a liberal democracy becomes a police state?

In Quebec, where student strikes against austerity once again disrupt civil society, marches are being declared illegal before they've even begun. At the height of the last wave of student strikes in 2012, the Quebec legislature passed Bill 78, which made pickets and unauthorized gatherings of over 50 people illegal, and punished violations with fines of up to $5,000 for individuals and $125,000 for organizations. Similar fines are once again imposed on protesters.

Last October, a new law was passed in Turkey allowing police to search demonstrators and their homes without warrants or even grounds for suspicion, a much looser definition and harsher punishment for resisting arrest, and making covering your face at a protest or shouting particular slogans crimes punishable by years of jail time. This February in London police forced climate protest organizers to hire private security for marshaling a rally, making protesting not a free public right but an expensive private service.

The list goes on: France banned Palestine solidarity demonstrations; police in Australia gained the power to ban protesters from appearing in public spaces for a year, even if they work or live there; and Egypt, Ukraine andRussia's governments have outlawed protest entirely. Mexico's congress approved "la ley antimarchas", which, if ratified by the state-level governments, will modify the constitution so that any unauthorized gathering would be illegal: the constitutional end to freedom of assembly. All of this in 2014.

And the United States is hardly doing better. In Baltimore, many of those who protested Freddie Gray's death were held without charges for over 48 hours. Cells designed for one or two people were crammed with dozens, and prisoners haven't been allowed phone calls, blankets, pillows, or any contact with lawyers or anyone from the outside world. In 2012, H.R. 347 made protesting near government buildings, political conventions or global summits — except in heavily policed and encaged "free speech zones" — a federal crime. After the Black Lives Matter movement had subsided in New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton demanded a new force of 1,000 police, armed with machine guns, specifically to monitor protests and sought to turn resisting arrest into a felony charge.

The right to freedom of assembly is guaranteed in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights and appears in almost all democratic constitutions, including the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The freedom to speak out and protest were often at the heart of Cold War claims that the "free world" was superior to the "Evil Empire."

Of course, even in democratic countries the police and the courts have a long history of shutting down genuinely threatening gatherings or political meetings. The First Amendment didn't stop the state from imprisoning Eugene Debs for an anti-World War I speech, or from shooting black student protesters at Orangeburg and Jackson State during the Black Power era.

But if the promise of free assembly is often and easily broken, why would a democratic state go so far as to officially revoke it? Why, in 2014, did we begin to see the de facto power of state repression made de jure?

In Spain, the answer is clear. Seven years after the financial crisis and the collapse of the housing market, unemployment remains near 25 percent (and more than 50 percent for youth.) The Spanish state has proven unwilling and unable to address massive structural problems, and the European Union continues to impose austerity on its fourth largest member economy. As a result, Spanish people have grown almost completely disillusioned with the possibility of change coming through government. They are increasingly turning to mutual aid, social movements and direct action to get things done.

It might be argued that Spain's repressive "gag law" reflects the country's relatively recent transition from dictatorship to democracy, which began only in 1975. But there was no Generalissimo Francisco Franco in Quebec or Australia. And New York City has technically been a democracy for hundreds of years, no matter how closely it has come to resemble heavily policed city-states such as Singapore or Hong Kong.

The appearance of anti-protest laws in so many countries reveals a general trend in the way governments envision the future. As the state's utter failure to assist those most hurt by the ongoing economic crisis becomes impossible to ignore, and as even the recovery from crisis proves to be hollow for most people, protests and riots are spreading worldwide with no sign of slowing down. The politicians and the governments have made their choice: stability and continuity, by any means necessary.

These new laws suggest that the ruling elites are preparing themselves for protracted conflict. Rather than genuflect before the idols of democratic freedoms — or, God forbid, actually attempt to alleviate such widespread social problems as inequality, racist violence and ecological collapse — governments are giving themselves new weapons to crush those who demand change. But once non-violent marches are punished just as harshly as rioting, will protesters stick to passive demonstration? Or will they take the streets with more radical ideas about what's required to win justice?

Samples of Israeli horrific brutality and war criminality in Gaza

© Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images
Photo of smoke from an Israeli air strike rising over the Gaza Strip on July 14, 2014 at the Israeli-Gaza border.

The Israeli group Breaking the Silence issued a report this morning containing testimony from Israeli soldiers about the savagery and criminality committed by the Israeli military during the attack on Gaza last summer. The Independent has a good article describing the report's findings: "The Israeli military deliberately pounded civilian areas in the Gaza Strip with incessant fire of inaccurate ordinance" and "was at best indifferent about casualties among the Palestinian population." At best.

This should surprise nobody who paid any attention to the brutal Israeli destruction of Gaza or, for that matter, countless Israeli attacks before that. The U.N. has said that 7 out of 10 people killed by the Israelis were civilians, "including 1,462 civilians, among them 495 children and 253 women"; video of Israelis killing four Gazan boys as they played on a beach sickened anyone decent.

Nonetheless, reading the accounts from these Israeli soldiers is revolting and important in equal parts. It shines considerable light on the reality of what Israeli loyalists have long hailed as "the most moral army in the world," one unfairly held to a difference standard that ignores their great "restraint."

The Intercept has chosen some selected, representative excerpts from the report, with the rank of the testifying soldier indicated (each one was granted anonymity by the report's organizers). This is the savage occupying force known as the Israeli Defense Forces:

"Whoever you see there, you kill"

Staff Sargent, Armored Corps:

[A]fter 48 hours during which no one shoots at you and they're like ghosts, unseen, their presence unfelt - except once in a while the sound of one shot fired over the course of an entire day - you come to realize the situation is under control. And that's when my difficulty there started, because the formal rules of engagement - I don't know if for all soldiers - were, "Anything still there is as good as dead. Anything you see moving in the neighborhoods you're in is not supposed to be there. The [Palestinian] civilians know they are not supposed to be there. Therefore whoever you see there, you kill. . . .

The commander [gave that order]. "Anything you see in the neighborhoods you're in, anything within a reasonable distance, say between zero and 200 meters - is dead on the spot. No authorization needed." We asked him: "I see someone walking in the street, do I shoot him?" He said yes.

Did the commander discuss what happens if you run into civilians or uninvolved people?

There are none. The working assumption states - and I want to stress that this is a quote of sorts: that anyone located in an IDF area, in areas the IDF took over - is not [considered] a civilian. That is the working assumption. We entered Gaza with that in mind, and with an insane amount of firepower.

Shot a "grandpa" while he lay wounded on the ground

Staff Sargent, Infantry:

We were in a house with the reconnaissance platoon, and there was some soldier stationed at the guard post. We were instructed [during the briefings] that whoever's in the area is dangerous, is suspect . . . .

A soldier who was in one of the posts saw an old [Palestinian] man approaching, so he shouted that some old man was getting near. He didn't shoot at him - he fired near him. What I know, because I checked this, is that one of the other soldiers shot that grandpa twice. . . .

I went up to a window to see what was going on out there, and I saw there was an old man lying on the ground, he was shot in his leg and he was wounded. It was horrible, the wound was horrible, and he looked either dead or unconscious to me. . . . . And then after that, some guy from the company went out and shot that man again, and that, for me, was the last straw. I don't think there was a single guy in my platoon who wasn't shocked by that. It's not like we're a bunch of leftists, but - why? Like, what the hell, why did you have to shoot him again? One of the problems in this story is that there was no inquiry into it, at least none that I know of.

"Any person you run into: shoot to kill"

Staff Sargent, Engineering Corps:

They warned us, they told us that after a ceasefire the population might return . . . . The instructions were to open fire. They said, "No one is supposed to be in the area in which you will be" . . . .

[W]e asked, "Will the civilian population return? What will the situation look like now when we go in [to the Gaza Strip] again?" And they said, "You aren't supposed to encounter the civilian population, no one is supposed to be in the area in which you'll be. Which means that anyone you do run into is [to be regarded as] a terrorist."

The instructions are to shoot right away. Whoever you spot - be they armed or unarmed, no matter what. The instructions are very clear. Any person you run into, that you see with your eyes - shoot to kill. It's an explicit instruction.

No incrimination process is necessary?
Zero. Nothing.

Used tanks to crush Palestinians' cars purely for "fun"

Staff Sargent, Armored Corps:

During the entire operation the [tank] drivers had this thing of wanting to run over cars - because the driver, he can't fire. He doesn't have any weapon, he doesn't get to experience the fun in its entirety, he just drives forward, backward, right, left. And they had this sort of crazy urge to run over a car. . . .

I mean, a car that's in the street, a Palestinian car, obviously. And there was one time that my [tank's] driver, a slightly hyperactive guy, managed to convince the tank's officer to run over a car, and it was really not that exciting - you don't even notice you're going over a car, you don't feel anything - we just said on the two-way radio: "We ran over the car. How was it?" And it was cool, but we really didn't feel anything. . . .

So he came back in, and right then the officer had just gone out or something, so he sort of whispered to me over the earphones: "I scored some sunglasses from the car." And after that, he went over and told the officer about it too, that moron, and the officer scolded him: "What, how could you do such a thing? I'm considering punishing you," but in the end nothing happened, he kept the sunglasses, and he wasn't too harshly scolded, it was all OK, and it turned out that a few of the other company's tanks ran over cars, too.

"The citizens of Gaza, I really don't give a fuck about them"

Staff Sargent, Infantry:

It was during our first Sabbath. Earlier that day one of the companies was hit by a few anti-tank missiles. The unit went to raid the area from which they were fired, so the guys who stayed behind automatically cared less about civilians. I remember telling myself that right now, the citizens of Gaza, I really don't give a fuck about them. They don't deserve anything - and if they deserve something it's either to be badly wounded or killed. . . .

So this old man came over, and the guy manning the post - I don't know what was going through his head - he saw this civilian, and he fired at him, and he didn't get a good hit. The civilian was laying there, writhing in pain. We all remembered that story going around, so none of the paramedics wanted to go treat him. It was clear to everyone that one of two things was going to happen: Either we let him die slowly, or we put him out of his misery. Eventually, we put him out of his misery, and a D9 (armored bulldozer) came over and dropped a mound of rubble on him and that was the end of it. In order to avoid having to deal with the question of whether he was booby-trapped or not - because that really didn't interest anyone at that moment - the D9 came over, dropped a pile of rubble on his body and that was it. Everyone knew that under that pile there was the guy's corpse. . . . .

What came up during the investigation when the company commander asked the soldier, was that the soldier spotted a man in his late 60s, early 70s approaching the house. They were stationed in a tall house, with a good vantage point. The soldier spotted that guy going in his direction, toward his post. So he shot in the direction of his feet at the beginning. And he said the old man kept getting closer to the house so he shot a bullet beneath his left ribs. Kidney, liver, I don't know what's in there. A spot you don't want to be hit by a bullet. That old man took the bullet, lay down on the ground, then a friend of that soldier came over and also shot the man, while he was already down. For the hell of it, he shot two more bullets at his legs. Meanwhile there was a talk with the commander, and because this was happening amidst a battalion offensive, it really didn't interest anyone. "We have casualties up front, don't bother us, do what you need to do."

Shelling and machine-gunning "every house we passed" - then taking them over and using them

Staff Sargent, Engineering Corps:

I got the impression that every house we passed on our way got hit by a shell - and houses farther away too. It was methodical. There was no threat. It's possible we were being shot at, but I truly wouldn't have heard it if we were because that whole time the tanks' Raphael OWS (machine guns operated from within the tanks) were being fired constantly. They were spraying every house with machine gun fire the whole time. . . .

[D]uring our walk there was no sign of any face-off or anything. There was a lot of shooting, but only from us.

How is the sweeping of a house conducted, when you enter it?
We would go in 'wet' (using live fire). I could hear the shooting, everything was done 'wet.' When we entered this house everything inside it was already a mess. Anything that could shatter had been shattered, because everything had been shot at. Anything made of glass - windows, a glass table, picture frames - it was all wrecked. All the beds were turned over, the rugs, the mattresses. Soldiers would take a rug to sleep on, a mattress, a pillow. There was no water, so youcouldn't use the toilet. So we would shit in their bathtub.

"By the time we got out of there, everything was like a sandbox"

Staff Sargent, Mechanized Infantry:

By the time we got out of there, it was all like a sandbox. Every house we left - and we went through three or four houses - a D9 (armored bulldozer) came over and flattened it. . . .

First of all, it's impressive seeing a D9 take down a big two-story house. We were in the area of a fairly rich, rural neighborhood - very impressive houses. We were in one spot where there was a house with a children's residence unit next door - just like in a well-off Moshav (a type of rural town) in Israel. The D9 would simply go in, take down part of the wall and then continue, take down another part of the wall, and leave only the columns intact. At a certain point it would push a pile of sand to create a mound of rubble and bring down other parts, until the house was eventually left stripped, and from that point it would simply hit the house [with its blade] until it collapsed. The D9 was an important working tool. It was working nearly non-stop.

Randomly obliterating homes with no warning, for revenge

Staff Sargent, Armored Corps:

On the day the fellow from our company was killed, the commanders came up to us and told us what happened. Then they decided to fire an 'honor barrage' and fire three shells. They said, "This is in memory of ****." That felt very out of line to me, very problematic. . . .

A barrage of shells. They fired the way it's done in funerals, but with shellfire and at houses. Not into the air. They just chose [a house] - the tank commander said, "Just pick the farthest one, so it does the most damage." Revenge of sorts. So we fired at one of the houses. Really you just see a block of houses in front of you, so the distance doesn't really matter.

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The Soviet Union was the ultimate target of the nuclear attack on Japan during WWII

Atomic Weapons Were Not Needed to End the War or Save Lives

Like all Americans, I was taught that the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to end WWII and save both American and Japanese lives.

But most of the top American military officials at the time said otherwise.

The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey group, assigned by President Truman to study the air attacks on Japan, produced a report in July of 1946 that concluded (52-56):

Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.

General (and later president) Dwight Eisenhower - then Supreme Commander of all Allied Forces, and the officer who created most of America's WWII military plans for Europe and Japan - said:

The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing.

Newsweek, 11/11/63, "Ike on Ike"

Eisenhower also noted (pg. 380):

In [July] 1945... Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. ...the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.

During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude....

Admiral William Leahy - the highest ranking member of the U.S. military from 1942 until retiring in 1949, who was the first de facto Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and who was at the center of all major American military decisions in World War II - wrote (pg. 441):

It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.

The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.

General Douglas MacArthur agreed (pg. 65, 70-71):

MacArthur's views about the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were starkly different from what the general public supposed .... When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.

Moreover (pg. 512):

The Potsdam declaration in July, demand[ed] that Japan surrender unconditionally or face 'prompt and utter destruction.' MacArthur was appalled. He knew that the Japanese would never renounce their emperor, and that without him an orderly transition to peace would be impossible anyhow, because his people would never submit to Allied occupation unless he ordered it. Ironically, when the surrender did come, it was conditional, and the condition was a continuation of the imperial reign. Had the General's advice been followed, the resort to atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have been unnecessary.

Similarly, Assistant Secretary of War John McLoy noted (pg. 500):

I have always felt that if, in our ultimatum to the Japanese government issued from Potsdam [in July 1945], we had referred to the retention of the emperor as a constitutional monarch and had made some reference to the reasonable accessibility of raw materials to the future Japanese government, it would have been accepted. Indeed, I believe that even in the form it was delivered, there was some disposition on the part of the Japanese to give it favorable consideration. When the war was over I arrived at this conclusion after talking with a number of Japanese officials who had been closely associated with the decision of the then Japanese government, to reject the ultimatum, as it was presented. I believe we missed the opportunity of effecting a Japanese surrender, completely satisfactory to us, without the necessity of dropping the bombs.

Under Secretary of the Navy Ralph Bird said:

I think that the Japanese were ready for peace, and they already had approached the Russians and, I think, the Swiss. And that suggestion of [giving] a warning [of the atomic bomb] was a face-saving proposition for them, and one that they could have readily accepted.


In my opinion, the Japanese war was really won before we ever used the atom bomb. Thus, it wouldn't have been necessary for us to disclose our nuclear position and stimulate the Russians to develop the same thing much more rapidly than they would have if we had not dropped the bomb.

War Was Really Won Before We Used A-Bomb, U.S. News and World Report, 8/15/60, pg. 73-75.

He also noted (pg. 144-145, 324):

It definitely seemed to me that the Japanese were becoming weaker and weaker. They were surrounded by the Navy. They couldn't get any imports and they couldn't export anything. Naturally, as time went on and the war developed in our favor it was quite logical to hope and expect that with the proper kind of a warning the Japanese would then be in a position to make peace, which would have made it unnecessary for us to drop the bomband have had to bring Russia in.

General Curtis LeMay, the tough cigar-smoking Army Air Force "hawk," stated publicly shortly before the nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan:

The war would have been over in two weeks. . . . The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.

The Vice Chairman of the U.S. Bombing Survey Paul Nitze wrote (pg. 36-37, 44-45):

[I] concluded that even without the atomic bomb, Japan was likely to surrender in a matter of months. My own view was that Japan would capitulate by November 1945.


Even without the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it seemed highly unlikely, given what we found to have been the mood of the Japanese government, that a U.S. invasion of the islands [scheduled for November 1, 1945] would have been necessary.

Deputy Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence Ellis Zacharias wrote:

Just when the Japanese were ready to capitulate, we went ahead and introduced to the world the most devastating weapon it had ever seen and, in effect, gave the go-ahead to Russia to swarm over Eastern Asia.

Washington decided that Japan had been given its chance and now it was time to use the A-bomb.

I submit that it was the wrong decision. It was wrong on strategic grounds. And it was wrong on humanitarian grounds.

Ellis Zacharias, How We Bungled the Japanese Surrender, Look, 6/6/50, pg. 19-21.

Brigadier General Carter Clarke - the military intelligence officer in charge of preparing summaries of intercepted Japanese cables for President Truman and his advisors - said (pg. 359):

When we didn't need to do it, and we knew we didn't need to do it, and they knew that we knew we didn't need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs.

Many other high-level military officers concurred. For example:

The commander in chief of the U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, Ernest J. King, stated that the naval blockade and prior bombing of Japan in March of 1945, had rendered the Japanese helpless and that the use of the atomic bomb was both unnecessary and immoral. Also, the opinion of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was reported to have said in a press conference on September 22, 1945, that "The Admiral took the opportunity of adding his voice to those insisting that Japan had been defeated before the atomic bombing and Russia's entry into the war." In a subsequent speech at the Washington Monument on October 5, 1945, Admiral Nimitz stated "The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war." It was learned also that on or about July 20, 1945, General Eisenhower had urged Truman, in a personal visit, not to use the atomic bomb. Eisenhower's assessment was "It wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing . . . to use the atomic bomb, to kill and terrorize civilians, without even attempting [negotiations], was a double crime." Eisenhower also stated that it wasn't necessary for Truman to "succumb" to [the tiny handful of people putting pressure on the president to drop atom bombs on Japan.]

British officers were of the same mind. For example, General Sir Hastings Ismay, Chief of Staff to the British Minister of Defence, said to Prime Minister Churchill that "when Russia came into the war against Japan, the Japanese would probably wish to get out on almost any terms short of the dethronement of the Emperor."

On hearing that the atomic test was successful, Ismay's private reaction was one of "revulsion."

Why Were Bombs Dropped on Populated Cities Without Military Value?

Even military officers who favored use of nuclear weapons mainly favored using them on unpopulated areas or Japanese military targets ... not cities.

For example, Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy Lewis Strauss proposed to Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal that a non-lethal demonstration of atomic weapons would be enough to convince the Japanese to surrender ... and the Navy Secretary agreed (pg. 145, 325):

I proposed to Secretary Forrestal that the weapon should be demonstrated before it was used. Primarily it was because it was clear to a number of people, myself among them, that the war was very nearly over. The Japanese were nearly ready to capitulate... My proposal to the Secretary was that the weapon should be demonstrated over some area accessible to Japanese observers and where its effects would be dramatic. I remember suggesting that a satisfactory place for such a demonstration would be a large forest of cryptomeria trees not far from Tokyo. The cryptomeria tree is the Japanese version of our redwood... I anticipated that a bomb detonated at a suitable height above such a forest... would lay the trees out in windrows from the center of the explosion in all directions as though they were matchsticks, and, of course, set them afire in the center. It seemed to me that a demonstration of this sort would prove to the Japanese that we could destroy any of their cities at will... Secretary Forrestal agreed wholeheartedly with the recommendation...

It seemed to me that such a weapon was not necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion, that once used it would find its way into the armaments of the world...

General George Marshall agreed:

Contemporary documents show that Marshall felt "these weapons might first be used against straight military objectives such as a large naval installation and then if no complete result was derived from the effect of that, he thought we ought to designate a number of large manufacturing areas from which the people would be warned to leave - telling the Japanese that we intend to destroy such centers...."

As the document concerning Marshall's views suggests, the question of whether the use of the atomic bomb was justified turns ... on whether the bombs had to be used against a largely civilian target rather than a strictly military target—which, in fact, was the explicit choice since although there were Japanese troops in the cities, neither Hiroshima nor Nagasaki was deemed militarily vital by U.S. planners. (This is one of the reasons neither had been heavily bombed up to this point in the war.) Moreover, targeting [at Hiroshima and Nagasaki] was aimed explicitly on non-military facilities surrounded by workers' homes.

Historians Agree that the Bomb Wasn't Needed

Historians agree that nuclear weapons did not need to be used to stop the war or save lives.

As historian Doug Long notes:

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission historian J. Samuel Walker has studied the history of research on the decision to use nuclear weapons on Japan. In his conclusion he writes, "The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisors knew it." (J. Samuel Walker, The Decision to Use the Bomb: A Historiographical Update, Diplomatic History, Winter 1990, pg. 110).

Politicians Agreed

Many high-level politicians agreed. For example, Herbert Hoover said (pg. 142):

The Japanese were prepared to negotiate all the way from February 1945...up to and before the time the atomic bombs were dropped; ...if such leads had been followed up, there would have been no occasion to drop the [atomic] bombs.

Under Secretary of State Joseph Grew noted (pg. 29-32):

In the light of available evidence I myself and others felt that if such a categorical statement about the [retention of the] dynasty had been issued in May, 1945, the surrender-minded elements in the [Japanese] Government might well have been afforded by such a statement a valid reason and the necessary strength to come to an early clearcut decision.

If surrender could have been brought about in May, 1945, or even in June or July, before the entrance of Soviet Russia into the [Pacific] war and the use of the atomic bomb, the world would have been the gainer.

Why Then Were Atom Bombs Dropped on Japan?

If dropping nuclear bombs was unnecessary to end the war or to save lives, why was the decision to drop them made? Especially over the objections of so many top military and political figures?

One theory is that scientists like to play with their toys:

On September 9, 1945, Admiral William F. Halsey, commander of the Third Fleet, was publicly quoted extensively as stating that the atomic bomb was used because the scientists had a "toy and they wanted to try it out . . . ." He further stated, "The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment . . . . It was a mistake to ever drop it."

However, most of the Manhattan Project scientists who developed the atom bomb were opposed to using it on Japan.

Albert Einstein - an important catalyst for the development of the atom bomb (but not directly connected with the Manhattan Project) - said differently:

"A great majority of scientists were opposed to the sudden employment of the atom bomb." In Einstein's judgment, the dropping of the bomb was a political - diplomatic decision rather than a military or scientific decision.

Indeed, some of the Manhattan Project scientists wrote directly to the secretary of defense in 1945 to try to dissuade him from dropping the bomb:

We believe that these considerations make the use of nuclear bombs for an early, unannounced attack against Japan inadvisable. If the United States would be the first to release this new means of indiscriminate destruction upon mankind, she would sacrifice public support throughout the world, precipitate the race of armaments, and prejudice the possibility of reaching an international agreement on the future control of such weapons.

Political and Social Problems, Manhattan Engineer District Records, Harrison-Bundy files, folder # 76, National Archives (also contained in: Martin Sherwin, A World Destroyed, 1987 edition, pg. 323-333).

The scientists questioned the ability of destroying Japanese cities with atomic bombs to bring surrender when destroying Japanese cities with conventional bombs had not done so, and - like some of the military officers quoted above - recommended a demonstration of the atomic bomb for Japan in an unpopulated area.

The Real Explanation?

History.com notes:

In the years since the two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, a number of historians have suggested that the weapons had a two-pronged objective .... It has been suggested that the second objective was to demonstrate the new weapon of mass destruction to the Soviet Union. By August 1945, relations between the Soviet Union and the United States had deteriorated badly. The Potsdam Conference between U.S. President Harry S. Truman, Russian leader Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill (before being replaced by Clement Attlee) ended just four days before the bombing of Hiroshima. The meeting was marked by recriminations and suspicion between the Americans and Soviets. Russian armies were occupying most of Eastern Europe. Truman and many of his advisers hoped that the U.S. atomic monopoly might offer diplomatic leverage with the Soviets. In this fashion, the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan can be seen as the first shot of the Cold War.

New Scientist reported in 2005:

The US decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 was meant to kick-start the Cold War rather than end the Second World War, according to two nuclear historians who say they have new evidence backing the controversial theory.

Causing a fission reaction in several kilograms of uranium and plutonium and killing over 200,000 people 60 years ago was done more to impress the Soviet Union than to cow Japan, they say. And the US President who took the decision, Harry Truman, was culpable, they add.

"He knew he was beginning the process of annihilation of the species," says Peter Kuznick, director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University in Washington DC, US. "It was not just a war crime; it was a crime against humanity."


[The conventional explanation of using the bombs to end the war and save lives] is disputed by Kuznick and Mark Selden, a historian from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, US.


New studies of the US, Japanese and Soviet diplomatic archives suggest that Truman's main motive was to limit Soviet expansion in Asia, Kuznick claims. Japan surrendered because the Soviet Union began an invasion a few days after the Hiroshima bombing, not because of the atomic bombs themselves, he says.

According to an account by Walter Brown, assistant to then-US secretary of state James Byrnes, Truman agreed at a meeting three days before the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima that Japan was "looking for peace". Truman was told by his army generals, Douglas Macarthur and Dwight Eisenhower, and his naval chief of staff, William Leahy, that there was no military need to use the bomb.

"Impressing Russia was more important than ending the war in Japan," says Selden.

John Pilger points out:

The US secretary of war, Henry Stimson, told President Truman he was "fearful" that the US air force would have Japan so "bombed out" that the new weapon would not be able "to show its strength". He later admitted that "no effort was made, and none was seriously considered, to achieve surrender merely in order not to have to use the bomb". His foreign policy colleagues were eager "to browbeat the Russians with the bomb held rather ostentatiously on our hip". General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Projectthat made the bomb, testified: "There was never any illusion on my part that Russia was our enemy, and that the project was conducted on that basis." The day after Hiroshima was obliterated, President Truman voiced his satisfaction with the "overwhelming success" of "the experiment".

We'll give the last word to University of Maryland professor of political economy - and former Legislative Director in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and Special Assistant in the Department of State - Gar Alperovitz:

Though most Americans are unaware of the fact, increasing numbers of historians now recognize the United States did not need to use the atomic bomb to end the war against Japan in 1945. Moreover, this essential judgment was expressed by the vast majority of top American military leaders in all three services in the years after the war ended: Army, Navy and Army Air Force. Nor was this the judgment of "liberals," as is sometimes thought today. In fact, leading conservatives were far more outspoken in challenging the decision as unjustified and immoral than American liberals in the years following World War II.


Instead [of allowing other options to end the war, such as letting the Soviets attack Japan with ground forces], the United States rushed to use two atomic bombs at almost exactly the time that an August 8 Soviet attack had originally been scheduled: Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. The timing itself has obviously raised questions among many historians. The available evidence, though not conclusive, strongly suggests that the atomic bombs may well have been used in part because American leaders "preferred"—as Pulitzer Prize - winning historian Martin Sherwin has put it—to end the war with the bombs rather than the Soviet attack. Impressing the Soviets during the early diplomatic sparring that ultimately became the Cold War also appears likely to have been a significant factor.


The most illuminating perspective, however, comes from top World War II American military leaders. The conventional wisdom that the atomic bomb saved a million lives is so widespread that ... most Americans haven't paused to ponder something rather striking to anyone seriously concerned with the issue: Not only did most top U.S. military leaders think the bombings were unnecessary and unjustified, many were morally offended by what they regarded as the unnecessary destruction of Japanese cities and what were essentially noncombat populations. Moreover, they spoke about it quite openly and publicly.


Shortly before his death General George C. Marshall quietly defended the decision, but for the most part he is on record as repeatedly saying that it was not a military decision, but rather a political one.

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Nanoparticles In food and water found to alter gut microbiome

Nanotechnology - that is, metal oxide particles* such as titanium dioxide - are increasingly used in the commercial food supply, consumer goods, body care and in water treatment.

The gut microbiome is today's most appealing topic of science because it was previously unacknowledged by the medical community just how important gut health is to the human brain, hormones, immunity, mental health and more. Maintaining a healthy gut has everything to do with optimum well being.

Unfortunately, so many substances are ushered into the food supply without testing, inspection, regulation or even the courtesy of a clear label. Consumers have no idea of what they are assimilating or how it will affect their health in the long term.

Yet, a paper hot off the presses in shows one reason why this practice should be promptly checked.

You may wish to copy and paste Metal Oxide Nanoparticles Induce Minimal Phenotypic Changes in a Model Colon Gut Microbiota into a Word document while it is available to read for free until June 1st.

Researchers found that nanoparticles led to multiple, measurable differences in the normal microbial community that inhabits the human gut, and they write:

Understanding the interactions between NPs and bacteria in an engineered model colon can indicate potential impacts of NP exposure on the gut, and therefore overall human health. Human microbiome health has important implications to overall individual health.


Overall, the NPs caused nonlethal, significant changes to the microbial community's phenotype, which may be related to overall health effects.

The article authors individually introduced three different nanoparticles -- zinc oxide, cerium dioxide, and titanium dioxide -- commonly used in products such as toothpastes, cosmetics, sunscreens, coatings, and paints, into a model of the human colon. The model colon mimics the normal gut environment and contains the microorganisms typically present in the human microbiome. Although they stopped short of blaming nanoparticles for serious damage (but they hinted), they demonstrate that exposure to nanoparticles created a visible, significant difference in how the microbiome functions.

They described changes in both specific characteristics of the microbial community and of the gut microenvironment after exposure to the nanoparticles. For instance, they point out past and current research of membrane damage in eukaryotic cells, negative effects in Escherichia coli, crossing the epithelial lining, strain specific antimicrobial effects and more. Their paper is also a great compilation of previous nanotech research.

It goes to show how such studies should have been explored before these substances were allowed anywhere near people's intestinal tracts and skin.

Previous research has also demonstrated the cancer-causing effects of nanoparticles in the intestinal tract. Definitely try to avoid packaged junk food, candy and body care products that contain whitening agents (like gum, Mentos and commercial sunscreen). However, there are other types of nanoparticles in consumer goods that go largely unnoticed, so reducing your reliance on commercial products could be one way to better the gut microbiota.

Other research papers are trying to influence the public into submitting to nanotech already placed in their food by using absurd shaming labels like "technology rejecters" for those who would rather pay more to avoid eating nanoparticles. They wish to see what it would take to get acquiescence even though no one ever asked for these materials to be flushed into the food and water supply.

Follow your gut instinct while you still can!

About the author

Video of Baltimore police arresting media member saying, "I don't care."

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This video was filmed beginning at 10:08 p.m. on May 2, 2015 in Baltimore by News2share credentialed reporters Ford Fischer and Trey Yingst.

It records the events before, during and after the involuntary detainment of Fischer by Baltimore police officers for allegedly breaking the citywide 10:00 pm curfew even though news media were exempt from the curfew.

Prior to the detainment approximately 4 minutes into the video, Fischer is attempting to objectively and safely record the events of the evening.

He remains on the opposite side of the street in order to avoid protesters and to stay out of the way of police.

While filming, he witnesses pepper spray, blunt force, and the threat of submachine guns used against people outside to enforce the curfew. When the police make an arrest, they approach Fischer and ask for his credentials. They are satisfied, and one says out loud "He's credentialed media" and another officer says "I don't care."

At this point, the camera is cut off when Fischer is approached from behind by a Baltimore police officer, forced to the ground and handcuffed.

Fischer is told he was violating curfew and is brought back to the police area to be processed.

At this point, Yingst begins filming. Yingst comes over to take possession of Fischer's camera and backpack before he was taken to the police station, Yingst asks what the charge was. Twice more, the police say it is a curfew violation despite being credentialed media.

Upon realizing that media are exempt from curfew, the police change the charge to a civil citation for disorderly conduct which carries a $500 fine.

I was released later that night and may choose to pay the fine or stand trial.

CopBlock.org via the submission tab by Ford Fischer*

872 days of cold, hunger and death: Leningrad siege survivors share their memories

One of the most tragic and harrowing chapters of the WWII was the siege of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, which lasted for almost 900 days. spoke to the survivors who unveiled the horrors of the deadliest siege in the history of warfare.

For 872 days, from September 8, 1941 till January 27, 1944 people in the Russian city of Leningrad were encircled by Nazi forces, cut off from the rest of the country with no food or vital supplies.

Though the total death toll is still unclear, estimates of the victims from the siege vary, with some numbering up to 1.5 million civilians.

Svetlana, one of the survivors of the Leningrad siege was only 7 years old when the war broke out. Speaking to 's Madina Kochinova, she recalls her first encounter with death when she found her aunt frozen on the street.

"She was lying with her head looking that way," Svetlana said to 's Kochinova, showing the spot where she had found her relative. "Her feet, they looked so scary, so black because of the cold."

The city was heavily bombed while people were dying of starvation and extreme cold. The winter of 1941-42 saw temperatures plunge to 40C below zero. With no heating the entire water supply network had frozen solid. The only solution was to collect water from holes in ice in the frozen Neva River.

"People wander around the city holding empty buckets search for water. There is no water, the pipes are frozen..." wrote Lubov Shaporina in a diary entry on January 6, 1942.


© RIA Novosti/Israel Ozersky
A woman sledging a starving husband in besieged Leningrad.

People endured severe food shortages: a strict rationing system was in effect in the city, with individual daily food consumption limited to around 125 grams of bread.

"The horror of the siege was how death became routine, in winter '41-'42 people just collapsed and died on the streets," Oleg Bushuev, the siege survivor, said according to website dedicated to WWII.

Tatyana Korsakova, now 78, lived under the blockade for two years. In an interview with she recalls that death was in the air in the city.

"As spring came we went to the bridge over Fontanka river. And from there we saw corpses floating down the river. And for some reason the kids including me were neither scared of the corpses nor disgusted. It was just a fact of the reality we were living in."

At one point the death toll peaked at 150,000 people a day, with those still alive forced to eat pets, rats or glue. Many people were driven to madness, while some resorted to cannibalism.

"Cases of cannibalism started to appear. You walk down the street and you see a corpse, you walk back and see there is piece missing," wrote Klavdiya Naumovna in a diary entry on February 22, 1942.

Women and children were being attacked. People kidnapped children "to eat them," Svetlana told . "It did take place. Everyone knew about it."


© RIA Novosri/Vladimir Tselik
People queueing up fo water in besieged Leningrad.

As Hitler's army surrounded the area of around 5,000 square kilometers, cutting almost all road links to the city, the only way for supplies to reach the population was via a narrow and dangerous road on the frozen surface of Lake Ladoga - it became known as the "Road of Life."

"Vehicles drove along one and the same track, and the ice became very thin and worn out, so we had to watch the traffic and the ice condition. The ice was repaired manually: we drilled holes and carried water to pour on the ice road. All the while the Germans were bombing us," Vera Rogova, who served as a traffic officer on the Road of Life, told .

Another witness of the siege, Svetlana Magaeva, said Nazi planes were constantly bombing the trucks on the lake, many of which were carrying children.

"They didn't care that those were the Red Cross trucks. In winter, the headlights of those drowned trucks were glowing and glowing until they finally went off. And in summer, we often saw children's caps in the water," Magaeva recalled in her book of memoirs.


© RIA Novosti/Boris Kudoyarov
An antiaircraft battery in besieged Leningrad.

People looked for symbols to give them hope. Amid the suffering, people could hear the persistent beat of the so-called Leningrad metronome. It became a symbol of the people's resistance to the siege. Broadcast through 1,500 speakers, a slow beat meant retreat, while a fast beat warned of an air raid.

Another symbol of resistance and the will to victory was the legendary 7th Symphony composed by Dmitry Shostakovich who witnessed the horrific siege in the first year of the war.

"My 7th Symphony was based on the formidable events of 1941," the composer said on an archive tape. "I dedicated my composition to the struggle against fascism, our forthcoming victory and my native city of Leningrad."

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The blockade of Leningrad is described as deliberate genocide by some historians. Over half a million people are buried in the Piskaryovskoe Memorial Cemetery, which is the main resting place for its victims.

"The blockade was sudden and unexpected, as much as the war itself was unexpected for the country. There were no reserves of fuel, no food..." the siege witness, Russian writer Daniil Granin said in his speech at the German parliament in 2014.

Watch 's documentary "Leningrad siege seen through survivors' eyes" where survivors of the dramatic events retell the unimaginable suffering they endured.

Merkel uses terrorism threat to defend BND's cooperation with NSA in corporate economic espionage

© Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch
German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended Germany's intelligence agency following allegations it helped the US spy on European companies. She says she will fully cooperate with a parliamentary investigation and provide "all the details" it needs.

Chancellor Merkel was speaking for the first time publically about the accusations that Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency helped the National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdrop on some of Europe's top firms.

She said it was imperative the BND continued to work with the NSA and the US to help in the fight against international terrorism. However, she also added that it was not acceptable for friendly nations to spy on each other.

"This ability to carry out its duties in the face of international terrorism threats is done in cooperation with other intelligence agencies, and that includes first and foremost the NSA," Merkel told journalists in Berlin.

"Intelligence agencies are working to ensure the public's safety and the German government will do everything it can to ensure that it can carry out its job," the German chancellor added.

Merkel said that her government would provide the German parliaments' oversight committee "all the details" about the country's cooperation with Washington. Two years ago, Merkel expressed outrage at the NSA after there were reports the agency had tapped her cell phone.

Germany's top spy has also come in for intense criticism following the allegations. Opposition politicians after [have] been calling for spy chief Gerhard Schindler to resign. However, he hit back, saying the BND "isn't a compliant tool of the NSA."

The leader of the Green party Martina Renner also threatened legal action against the German government if it did not share detailed information concerning the extent of ties between the BND and NSA.

"Merkel has to show now whether she wants to explain it or cover it up," Konstantin von Notz, MP of the Green party told DPA.

In April, the Bild newspaper said the German government had been "lying in black and white" in regards to claims they knew about the BND's actions.

The NSA had reportedly asked Germany's intelligence agency, the BND, to obtain sensitive records, such as email and IP addresses as well as telephone numbers to help the American agency spy with certain European companies and the French government.

European aviation consortium Airbus was one of the companies targeted, according to a report in Spiegel Online. The company responded on April 30 by saying it would file criminal charges over industrial espionage.

"We are aware that as a large company in the sector, we are a target and subject of espionage," the company said in a statement to AFP. "However, in this case we are alarmed because there is concrete suspicion of industrial espionage."

According to leaks by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the BND has collaborated with the NSA for at least a decade.

Surf's up: Recent New Zealand storm bringing massive waves to southern California

© Reuters / Mike Blake

A recent storm near New Zealand is being blamed for major waves thousands of miles away off the coast of California this week.

The National Weather Service says Californians can expect to encounter massive waves through Tuesday this week as a result of the storm that erupted on Thursday and Friday in the southern hemisphere, the Los Angeles Times reported.

According to the paper, a high-surf advisory has been issued for the west coast upon concerns that waves as tall as 15 feet could crash onto Newport Beach in Orange County.

"Once those waves are created, they keep traveling until they reach land," David Sweet, a weather service meteorologist, told the Times. "So we can thank our friends Down Under."

The Orange County Register reported on Monday morning that waves taller than 18 feet have already been spotted at the Wedge, a popular surf spot by Newport Beach.

"It's a washing machine," 48-year-old surfer Christopher Scott told the Register on Sunday. "It can knock the wind out of you, break people's bones. Some people don't realize the power of The Wedge."

"Right now, if a surfer came down here, I'd be like, 'Dude, what are you doing?'" lifeguard Jonathan Richards told the paper eight miles up the beach in Huntington on Sunday.

According to the Associated Press, authorities had to rescue at least 16 people in Newport Beach on Sunday due to high waves. Additionally, the Carnival Imagination cruise ship was prompted to change course and dock in San Diego due to the extreme conditions.

"Therefore, in the interest of caution, the cruise ship ... deviated to San Diego," Carnival said in a statement.

The LA Daily News reported that current swells have been racing across the Pacific from New Zealand at a rate of around 30 miles per hour, according to NASA oceanographer Bill Patzert, covering upwards of 750 miles each day.

"This will carve a new coastline in some areas," Patzert predicted.

A family affair: NY Senate majority leader, son arrested on federal corruption charges


© Reuters / Eduardo Munoz
New York State Senator Dean Skelos (L) hugs his son Adam Skelos while they arrive at the Jacob Javits Federal Building in New York May 4, 2015.

The New York Senate majority leader and his son have been arrested by the FBI on corruption and conspiracy charges. State Sen. Dean G. Skelos is accused of using his position to benefit his son's business dealings.

Sen. Skelos and his son, Adam B. Skelos, were arrested on six charges, including conspiracy to commit extortion, honest services wire fraud, extortion and solicitation of bribes. The criminal complaint, filed by federal authorities in US District Court, were unsealed Monday morning. The Skeloses turned themselves in shortly after, according to the .

The investigation into the father and son began in 2010. The FBI accused Sen. Skelos of engineering two companies "to direct payments to Adam Skelos with the expectation that Sen. Skelos would use his official position on their behalf," the complaint said.

In January 2015, Sen. Skelos, a Republican who represents a portion of Long Island's Nassau County in the state legislature, was elected majority leader. He bragged to his son in a recorded phone call that he would gain even more power by the end of the year.

"I'm going to be President of the Senate, I'm going to be Majority Leader, I'm going to control everything, I'm going to control who gets on what committees, what legislation goes to the floor, what legislation comes through committees, the budget, everything," Sen. Skelos said.

The defendants tried to hide their scheme, including the purchase of a self-described "burner phone," and changed their behavior and how they communicated after Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver was charged with corruption in January, the complaint said. They often used coded language in their conversations.

"You can't talk normally because it's like f - king Preet Bharara is listening to every f-cking phone call. It's just f--king frustrating," Adam Skelos said, according to the indictment. Bharara is the US attorney for the Southern District of New York. He brought the federal corruption charges against Silver.

At least two companies ‒ Glenwood Management, a real estate development firm, and AbTech Industries, an Arizona environmental technology company ‒ were involved in the scheme, the reported. Neither organization was named in the complaint.

A senior executive at each company cooperated with the FBI and secretly recorded conversations with the defendants, who "pressured" the two individuals to pay Adam Skelos "hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to influence official actions by Dean Skelos," the court documents said. The wiretaps were court authorized.

In one specific example, Nassau County was considering awarding AbTech a multimillion dollar contract, but the defendants "threatened to block the contract unless payments to Adam Skelos were substantially increased... to $10,000 per month." Once the company agreed to do so, it "received the assurance that if the Environmental Technology Company 'took care' of Adam Skelos, Dean Skelos would 'take care' of the Environmental Technology Company." AbTech paid at least $198,000 between 2010 and February 2015.

Sen. Skelos unsuccessfully helped AbTech attempt to secure "hydrofracking regulations" from the New York State Department of Health, as well as attempted to change the state's 2015-2016 budget to include additional funding for storm water infrastructure projects. He also tried to change New York law to allow for "design-build" contracts. Both of those changes "would have benefitted the Environmental Technology Company."

In one of the recorded conversations, Adam Skelos admitted he had gotten a job with AbTech despite the fact that he "literally knew nothing about water or, you know, any of that stuff."

Sen. Skelos was accused of promoting and voting for various real estate legislation "sought by and favorable to" the real estate developer, "including legislation concerning rent regulation and property tax abatements, and he rebuffed legislative initiatives put forth by interests adverse to" Glenwood Management. The company paid Adam Skelos $20,000 disguised as a payment in return for work he had performed in such a way that it could not be traced back to the firm, the complaint said.

Adam Skelos was also accused of obtaining lists of his father's top political donors so he "could attempt to sell products to these donors." He then forwarded those contacts to people at companies whose services he marketed on a commission basis. At the same time, Sen. Skelos steered title insurance work to his son, "including at least one real estate transaction for more than $32.6 million."

A battle is expected over Sen. Skelos' position as majority leader, according to the . At least one state senator, Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco, has signaled his interest in the job, which would likely mean he wouldn't retire next year as he'd previously planned. DeFrancisco, from Syracuse in upstate New York, will "almost certainly" face competition from Sen. John Flanagan, from Long Island's Suffolk County.

NASA records enormous burst of plasma erupting from the sun

Screenshot from NASA video

An enormous burst of plasma erupting from the sun has had astronomers glued to their telescopes for hours. Two orbital observatories managed to capture the phenomenon on video, published by NASA.

The event was filmed with the use of coronographs. They are specialized observation devices which use an occulter disk to block out light from the sun itself and create an artificial eclipse within the device. This enables astronauts to observe the dimmer parts of the star, its corona.

Filaments are unstable strands of solar matter which rise above the sun with the fluctuations of its magnetic field. They are much colder than the surface of the sun, and are thus visible as darker areas when viewed against it. However, when seen from the side, like in the video, they look like snake-like bursts of flame, which sometimes loop back onto the sun

This particular filament is unusually large, spanning millions of kilometers. The phenomenon was observable for a span of about six hours (the video has been sped up, but you can see the time stamp at the bottom). It did not erupt in the Earth's direction and poses no danger to the planet or spacecraft in its orbit.

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It was observed by both NASA and the European Space Agency, using their orbital Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). Soho offered the best view of the event through its two Large Angle Spectrometric Coronagraphs (LASCOs) and made it into the video. One coronograph took a closer look, filming the corona out to 8.4 kilometers. Its part is colored red in the NASA video. The other took a wider shot, with a 45-million kilometer pan, colored blue in the video.

Garland Shooting: Gladio - Texas-Style

Garland shooting involved troupe of practiced war propagandists and patsies long on the FBI's watch list. 

May 4, 2015 (Tony Cartalucci - LD) - ABC News confirms that one of the suspects of the Garland Texas shooting incident, featuring professional war propagandists of the so-called "American Freedom Defense Intitiative" (AFDI), has been under FBI surveillance and investigation since at least as early as 2007.

Their report, "Garland Shooting Suspect Elton Simpson's Father: ‘My Son Made a Bad Choice’," states:

Followers of ISIS had been sending messages about the event in Texas for more than a week, calling for attacks. One referenced January's Charlie Hebdo massacre in France and said it was time for "brothers" in the United States to do their part.

Simpson was well known to the FBI. Five years ago he was convicted for lying to federal agents about his plans to travel to Africa where investigators alleged he planned to join a terror group.

The investigation into Simpson reached back to July 2007, when he was recorded saying of fighting with Islamists, “I know we can do it, man. But you got to find the right people that… Gotta have connects.”

Despite the event allegedly increasing chatter amongst "Islamic State" (ISIS) groups online, and despite the suspect Elton Simpson being long under FBI surveillance and even sentence to 3 years of probation resulting from a terror-related investigation, he was still able to conveniently conspire and carry out an attack on a highly provocative propaganda stunt in the state of Texas. 

Garland Shooting Fits Pattern of Larger Staged Terror Campaign 

As with all other staged provocations, including similar shootings in Paris, France, Copenhagen, Denmark, and Sydney, Australia, the suspects were well known to state security agencies for years, but allowed to conspire and carry out predictable, deadly, and politically highly convenient attacks. All of this echos the similar and long-since exposed staged provocations of the notorious "Operation Gladio," carried out by NATO.

In Paris, France, the suspects in the so-called "Charlie Hebo Shooting" were under the watch of security forces for years, were in and out of jail specifically for terrorism, were known to have left France to join terrorists fighting with Western-backing in Syria and return, only to be left "unwatched" for precisely the 6 months they would need to plan, assemble the weapons for, and prepare to execute the attack.

In Copenhagen, an assailant who attacked a synagogue killing 2, was also well known to security agencies. The Washington Post would report in their article, "Danish attacks echo France," that:

The assailant in this weekend’s attacks was well known to Danish intelligence, Madsen said. In November 2013, Hussein stabbed a teenager in the thigh while aboard a commuter train, and according to Danish media, he had recently been released from prison following his conviction. 

But it was unclear whether this weekend’s assailant was under surveillance and, if so, how he managed to slip free long enough to plan an attack with an assault rifle.

Once again, suspects under surveillance and even arrested and imprisoned as violent offenders or as terrorists, managed to conveniently "slip free" of security agencies just in time to carry out attacks that just so happen to help the West continue its extraterritorial wars raging abroad, and continue building an abhorrent police state back at home.

Finally, in Australia, a suspect who held up a cafe in a deadly hostage crisis, was literally brought to Australia from Iran for the purpose of waging a propaganda war on Iran. When this failed to materialize,the "shape-shifting sheik" would morph to fit the villain necessary to match whatever narrative was currently being floated around the Western media. His final performance would help bolster the illusion that ISIS is an enemy of the West, rather than a creation and perpetuation of it, and to this day serving as the West's extraterritorial mercenary forces in nations like Syria and Iraq.

A Modern Day Gladio 

NATO's Operation Gladio, and its larger "stay behind" networks established after World War II across Europe and at the center of multiple grisly assassinations, mass shootings, and terrorist bombings designed to demonize the Soviet Union as well as criminalize and crush support for left-leaning political parties growing in popularity in Western Europe. It would be determined that NATO's own covert militant groups were killing innocent Western Europeans in order to effect a "strategy of tension" used to instill fear, obedience, and control over Western populations. 

A similar campaign of staged terror has been and is still being carried out not only across Europe but also now in the Americas - including in Canada. The purpose of this campaign is to divide society socially and politically, while helping to radicalize young people to join the ranks of US-British-Saudi armed and funded mercenary groups abroad in nations like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, and Libya, and then return to commit staged provocations to inspire fear, hatred, and obedience at home.

It is a conflict of which both sides are controlled by the same criminal special interests. While it is clear that Western security forces maintain a large pool of potential terrorists they intentionally allow to roam free until needed, it may not be clear to many of what the backgrounds are of those who organized the event in Garland, Texas that allegedly provoked this most recent attack.

Neo-Con Propagandists Are Hiding Behind Freedom of Speech, Not Defending It

The supposed trigger for this provocation was a "draw Mohammad" contest organized by the American Freedom Defense Intitiative (AFDI), a performing Neo-Conservative propaganda troupe consisting of the Bush-era US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, full-time propagandist Pamela Gellar and Robert Spencer, and Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

Their debut performance was in 2010, where they came out to protest the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" supposedly to be built near the ruins of the destroyed World Trade Center in New York City. The mosque was never actually built, not because of the public backlash, but because the entire controversy was manufactured. The "imam" allegedly behind the mosque, was in fact a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, funded and backed by the very same corporate-funded think tanks that set out to protest against the planned "mosque." In other words, the entire scandal was manufactured on both sides by the same special interests for the purpose of manipulating the public.

Since then, with little success, AFDI and its various affiliates in North America and Europe have attempted to stoke hatred not toward "radical Islam," terrorists, or the US-backed regimes arming and funding them, but against all Muslims. Dutch politician Geert Wilders, for his part, while claiming to be defending "free speech" in Texas, has been busy trying to infringe on the rights of Muslims back in his home country. 

He has even gone as far as calling for the complete censorship of the Qu'ran. The Telegraph in their article, "Ban Koran like Mein Kampf, says Dutch MP," would report:

The Koran should be banned as a “fascist book” alongside Mein Kampf because it urges Muslims to kill non-believers, says Dutch populist MP Geert Wilders.

Wilders and the rest of AFDI are not exercising free speech, but are in fact attempting to inspire fear, suspicion, hatred, and tangible violence against not just "terrorists," but all 1 billion plus practitioners of the Islamic faith, many of whom are fighting and dying this very moment battling real terrorists, ironically armed, funded, and fully backed by the very Neo-Cons that have assembled AFDI.

Not only does AFDI hold freedom of speech in contempt and actively set out to destroy it for others, they are now hiding behind it to further strip the rights, peace, and stability away from people both in the West and abroad. The so-called "War on Terror" that AFDI's rhetoric actively supports has served as the impetus to do everything from expanding warrantless surveillance and an ever expanding police state at home, to help garner support for wars of geopolitical conquest abroad.

Not About "Free Speech" 

With these facts in mind, it is clear that "free speech" is a canard used by both the "left" and "right" to distract from the real purpose of the Garland shooting, and other acts of provocation like it. It distracts from the fact that all of the perpetrators have been well-known to security agencies for years, even sentenced and/or imprisoned by various courts, as well as investigated and kept under surveillance. It distracts from the fact that the event at the center of the attacks was organized and carried out by those who themselves have actively sought to curtail the freedoms of others, not to mention foster wars that have ended or otherwise destroyed the lives of millions. It distracts from the fact that the very Neo-Cons telling the world to fear "Islam" represent the same special interests arming and funding literal Al Qaeda and ISIS terrorists across North Africa, the Middle East, and even Central and East Asia.

The AFDI represents one insidious arm of a larger criminal conspiracy that has verifiably helped end the lives of tens of thousands in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen since 2011. It also represents the same special interests that lied to the world to justify invading Iraq in 2003, ending the lives of some 1 million people and leaving the country, to this very day, in constant deadly chaos.

The Garland shooting is not about freedom of speech, but rather about criminal special interests playing both sides of a manufactured strategy of  tension to achieve further bloodshed, death, and conquest abroad, while inviting fear, division, and a growing police state stripping us all of our rights here at home.

Neither the AFDI nor the patsies involved in the shooting deserve the public's sympathy or defense. Rather, they both demand the scrutiny and vigilance required to break the rhetorical back of this conspiracy, and strip away the support it receives from both sides of a mass-manipulated public.