A non-profit news blog, focused on providing independent journalism.

Saturday, 5 September 2015


Last year HAARP (the US military’s controversial High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program in Alaska) shut down, but the Valdez Star reports that it’s back, just under new management:

Instead of falling to the dozer blade, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program has new life.


In mid-August, U.S. Air Force General Tom Masiello shook hands with UAF’s Brian Rogers and Bob McCoy, transferring the powerful upper-atmosphere research facility from the military to the university.

You may have heard of HAARP.

Nick Begich wrote a book about it. Jesse Ventura tried to bully his way past the Gakona gate during a TV episode of Conspiracy Theory. Muse recorded a live album, HAARP, at Wembley Stadium from a stage filled with antennas meant to resemble those standing on a gravel pad off the Tok Cutoff Road.

The science-fiction assertions of caribou walking backwards, human mind control and HAARP’s ability to change the weather have made researchers wince. It’s hard to describe a complicated instrument that sends invisible energy into a zone no one can see.

HAARP is a group of high-frequency radio transmitters powered by four diesel tugboat generators and one from a locomotive. The transmitters send a focused beam of radio-wave energy into the aurora zone. There, that energy can stimulate a speck of the electrical sun-Earth connection about 100 miles above our heads.

Why did university higher-ups swing the door back open for the conspiracy theorists? Why not let HAARP go quietly back to boreal forest?

“Even though it’s esoteric and hard to understand, it’s the best,” said Bob McCoy, head of UAF’s Geophysical Institute, which now has the keys to the complex, located off mile 11.3 of the Tok Cutoff Road…

Bread & Circuses: The Shady, Slimy & Corrupt World Of Taxpayer Funded Sports Stadiums

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 12.09.24 PM

Like pretty much everything in the modern U.S. economy, wealthy and connected people fleecing taxpayers in order to earn even greater piles of money is also the business model when it comes to sports stadiums. Many cities have tried to make voter approval mandatory before these building boondoggles get started, but in almost all cases these efforts are thwarted by a powerful coalition of businessmen and corrupt politicians. Sound familiar? Yep, it a microcosm for pretty much everything else in America these days.

To get you up to speed, here are a few excerpts from an excellent Pacific Standard magazine article:

Over the past 15 years, more than $12 billion in public money has been spent on privately owned stadiums. Between 1991 and 2010, 101 new stadiums were opened across the country; nearly all those projects were funded by taxpayers. The loans most often used to pay for stadium construction—a variety of tax-exempt municipal bonds—will cost the federal government at least $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies to bondholders. Stadiums are built with money borrowed today, against public money spent tomorrow, at the expense of taxes that will never be collected. Economists almost universally agree that publicly financed stadiums are bad investments, yet cities and states still race to the chance to unload the cash. What gives?  


To understand this stadium trend, and why it’s so hard for opponents to thwart public funding, look to Wisconsin. Last month, Governor Scott Walker signed a bill to spend $250 million on a new basketball arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. (The true cost of the project, including interest payments, will be more than $400 million.)

Isn’t Scott Walker supposed to be “Mr. Fiscal Conservative?”

The story of what’s happening in Milwaukee is remarkable, if not already familiar. Step one: A down-on-its-luck team is purchased by a group of billionaire investors. Step two: The owners nod to their “moral responsibility” to keep the team in its hometown,while simultaneously lobbying for a new stadium. Step three: The team threatens to abandon its hometown for greener pastures—and newer facilities—in another city. Step four: The threat scares up hundreds of millions of public dollars in stadium financing. Step five: The new stadium opens, boosting the owners’ investment, while sloughing much of the financial risk onto taxpayers. As New York Times columnist Michael Powell wrote, “From start to desultory end, Milwaukee offered a case study in all that is wrong with our arena-shakedown age.”


That’s not to say the Bucks plan was entirely unopposed. Last year, a coalition of religious and community groups known as Southeastern Wisconsin Common Ground tried to fight the arena proposal. It called for a voter referendum on the bond issue, and lobbied for money to improve Milwaukee’s public parks and playing fields. Powell explains the rest:


The local business community—which includes several members who have ownership shares in the team—dismissed such ideas as impractical. “The Bucks took control of the strategy from the start,” said Bob Connolly, a member of Common Ground. “They pushed the referendum idea right to the side.” Months later, when Common Ground leaders turned to usually friendly local foundations for more funding, they found themselves turned away. You are, they were told several times, too political.


The lesson is clear: It is incredibly difficult to fight these projects. And Milwaukee is not alone. In St. Louis, for example, a judge recently struck down a city ordinance requiring voters to approve public spending on a new stadium for the Rams. Back in June, when Glendale, Arizona, tried to back out of its atrocious dealwith the National Hockey League’s Coyotes, the team quickly slapped the city with a lawsuit. Meanwhile, in building a new billion-dollar home in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Vikings found a loophole around a state law mandating that all public spending on sports teams be put to a vote.


Not surprisingly, publicly funded stadiums face the least opposition in cities with strong growth coalitions, which Eckstein and Delaney define as the “institutionalized relationship between headquartered local corporations and the local government.” A coalition can claim to represent the interests of a community—not an outrageous claim on its face, since it comprises the powerful and prominent local leaders—while shielding team owners from both direct criticism and grassroots opposition. This is precisely what’s happening in Milwaukee. Here’s the Times’ Powell again:


The hedge fund owners proved deft with ownership shares, handing these out to prominent Wisconsin businessmen and Republicans, including the developer Jon Hammes. Hammes has become national finance co-chairman for Walker, a Republican presidential candidate. The Capital Times recently reported that a political action committee connected to Hammes contributed $150,000 to the governor in late spring. 


Economists have proposed antitrust lawsuits against leagues and stricter naming rights for teams, as Slate suggested in March, but neither idea has gained much traction. Florida proposal would have shared team revenues with the public—a somewhat radical idea that Deadspin boldly declared “The Best Idea for Stadium Financing We’ve Ever Heard“—but it was quickly deemed illegal.

Sharing revenues with the taxpayers funding the stadium: Illegal.

Blatantly corrupt private-public partnership cartels: Perfectly legal.

Two words: Banana Republic.

In case you forgot the ultimate casino-gulag partnership of them all…

America in 2013: Florida Football Stadium Named After a Private Prison Company

Now here’s the always brilliant John Oliver on the issue. Enjoy:

Czech Cops Haul Refugees Off Trains To Germany, Writes Numbers On Their Arms In Ink

For most of us, the image of a serial number on a forearm conjures up indelible images of 1940s Germany, but it seems this is not the case for the Czech police, who adopted the controversial practice earlier this week.

As the immigration debate intensifies throughout Europe, police in the Southern Czech region of Moravia resorted to the method in an attempt to stem the tide of people fleeing war by heading to the E.U.

According to The Independent, during the early hours of Tuesday morning, over 200 people were arrested as their trains arrived from Austria and Hungary. The refugees were removed from the trains heading to Germany, detained, and flagged with identification numbers written on their arms with marker pens. Photographs in the Czech media showed police officers writing registration numbers on the arms of women and children among chaotic scenes of razor wire and makeshift camps.

“What never stops amazing me are people who look at the Holocaust and think that it only holds lessons for Germans & Jews,” European Media Director of Human Rights Watch Andrew Stroehlein said on Twitter.

Seemingly oblivious to the shocking inhumanity of the measures, whoever had the idea to introduce the unbelievable techniques thankfully decided to use marker pen and not needles to punch serial numbers into the skin. Governor of Southern Moravia Michael Hasek told local media the authorities “…were preparing for what would occur if the migrants increased.”

According to Czech media, after arrest, refugees are placed in secure institutions and  believe it or not, are then required to pay for the privilege. Following a backlash of international criticism, the Czech Republic has since announced that it no longer plans to detain Syrian refugees trying to reach Germany, making it the latest country to abandon European asylum rules in the face of the global crisis.

In keeping with the 1940s theme, distressing scenes erupted in Hungary on Thursday as desperate refugees climbed aboard what they assumed was the first western Europe-bound train for days. Assuming the train was taking them to the Austrian border, panic among the refugees broke out when it stopped at the Hungarian town of Bicske instead.

As the train pulled into the town, which hosts a major refugee camp, the platforms were lined with waiting police in riot gear. After reaching yet another dead end in their journey, families refused to leave the train they had boarded in search of freedom — that in fact was taking them to a detention camp. One desperate refugee threw himself and his family onto the train tracks in an attempt to prevent being hauled off to a camp.