Friday, April 4, 2008

A 'litmus test for India's claim that it can deal with globalisation without sacrificing vulnerable citizens'

 
 Dow fully bought Carbide in 2001, and by natural law, takes over all its liabilities and assets. Yet, it has offered to bear the cost of (partially) cleaning the Bhopal site — but only on condition that it's freed of all legal liabilities, including criminal liability on charges of culpable homicide.

Dow has been strenuously lobbying Indian officials while holding out the lure of large-scale investments — if it's let off the liability hook. Between 2005 and 2007, numerous influential people pleaded on its behalf, including Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, finance minister P. Chidambaram and commerce minister Kamal Nath, besides top-notch US-India Business Council office-bearers such as Ratan Tata and Dow chief Andrew N. Liveris.

Dow has been illegally selling Carbide's technologies in India through front companies such as Mega Vista Marketing Solutions and Mega Vista Global Services — in defiance of a 1992 court order, which directs the government to confiscate all of Carbide's assets in India because Carbide is a proclaimed absconder from Indian law. Dow stands implicated in a series of legal infringements and violations of due process, including misrepresentation and attempts to bribe agriculture ministry officials to register pesticides.

In 1989, Carbide escaped civil liability for the faulty plant design and gross negligence, which caused the accident, by paying a paltry $470 million in a collusive and grossly unjust settlement. But its criminal liability still survives.

However, Carbide and its directors have refused to stand trial in a Bhopal criminal court. Meanwhile, Dow has been sheltering these fugitives from the law and selling Carbide's products, technologies and services in India.

Dow's offer confronts the government with a critical choice. Either it cuts a deal with this multinational in a mercenary fashion; or it sides with the survivors.

Blair: 'Wrong man, wrong Europe'

 So the text of the treaty will be pushed through parliaments with no time for discussion and debate. Nicolas Sarkozy himself told right-wing Euro MPs that if there were referendums on the Lisbon Treaty, they would be lost; if the French voted, they would again vote 'No'. Under no circumstances should citizens be allowed referendums (and Ireland made a huge mistake in making them compulsory).

Don't make the mistake of letting people actually read a clear text. The Lisbon Treaty is what you get, like it or not, although we can't actually give you a copy of it – just five or six separate documents, protocols and declarations that you can spend the next few years collating and cross-referencing to your heart's content. Oh yes – and we've got just the man to lead the new Europe that this treaty intends to force upon you: Tony Blair.

He's perfect for the job. We can count on him to promote 'a more assertive Union role in security and defence matters [which] will contribute to the vitality of a renewed Atlantic Alliance'. And he will make sure that Europe 'respects the obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which remains the foundation of the collective defence of its members', according to Protocol 4 of the treaty (which, like the other protocols and declarations has the same legal force as the treaty and supersedes national law).

We don't know what Nato's future policies will be and are signing on blindfolded. But we do know that the US will continue to lead it and that the US president will be its de facto commander in chief. Who better than Blair to polish the commander's medals and shine his [or her] shoes?

The EU is terrific on market-oriented policies as well, and that can only be to Blair's satisfaction. In the 410 treaty articles, the 'market' rates 63 references and 'competition' is cited 25 times. 'Social progress' gets three mentions, 'full employment' one and 'unemployment' none, but you can't have everything.
 
 

More on alleged strike against Iran planned for 6 April

 
 According to an article by Webster Tarpley, author of the Unauthorised Biography of George Bush, referencing Russian journalist Andrei Uglanov of the Moscow weekly "Argumenty Nedeli", the Bush-Cheney led US Government and Military had scheduled a strike against Iran for April 6th 2007 code named Operation Bite.

That strike did not occur as "officially" scheduled in April 2007; military analysts suggest that details of Operation Bite were deliberately publicly leaked with the intent to test the capacity for taunting Iran into pre-emptive attack against US-UK-EU forces in the Middle East in coupling with the Royal British Navy's minor incursion into Iranian Waters on March 23rd 2007.

More to the point, Operation Bite appears to have always been intended for initiation between the New Moon of April 6th 2008 to the Full Moon of April 20th 2008, one year later, in co-ordination with the pre-planned Operation Orion 08, a contingency force of British, American, French and Spanish Naval Fleets led by the Royal British Navy.

Last year was a forerunner test to determine what degree of incursion and provocation would be required to entice Iran to launch a pre-emptive strike so as to publicly justify US-UK-EU strike response ; it would seem that a repeat episode intends to fully provoke a pre-emptive attack from Iran as of the New Moon of April 6th 2008 or elsewise to nonetheless launch Operation Bite and Operation Orion 08 attack by April 20th 2008.

Russian Military Intelligence Services are reporting a flurry of activity by U.S. Armed Forces near Iran's borders:
"The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran," the official said, adding that the Pentagon has probably not yet made a final decision as to when an attack will be launched.

He said the Pentagon is looking for a way to deliver a strike against Iran "that would enable the Americans to bring the country to its knees at minimal cost."

He also said the U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the level that existed shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said last week that the Pentagon is planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran's military infrastructure in the near future.


One year later we see the correlation of enhanced US Assault in Iraq at Baghdad and the Iraqi Port City of Basra, both neighbouring the Iranian Border, that has been defined by George W Bush II as the "defining moment" coupled with the arrival of Royal British Navy Battle Fleets under the code name of Operation Orion 08 with the key date of April 6th 2008, the precise completion of 666 months (55.5 years) from the birth date of Vladimir Putin, April 7th 1952.

As written in the Daily Telegraph:

"Observers believe that the spring is the last possible moment for President George W Bush to order military strikes against Iran's nuclear programme. The imminence of America's presidential election may make it impossible for Washington to carry out an attack any later."

Musical Innerlube: 10CC - Wall Street Shuffle

Weapons of mass demonstration

Aldermaston is not something that belongs to the past – it produces Britain's weapons of mass destruction today, and will continue to do so into the future, unless we are effective in our opposition.

In 2002, the private consortium that manages AWE Aldermaston published a plan to redevelop and build new facilities at the site. The building work is now well advanced, and the developments are on the scale of Heathrow's Terminal Five.

They are estimated to cost in the region of £5 billion and they will also result in the employment of more than 1,000 additional staff. Recruitment has already begun. But what are these developments for? We believe that they are for the development and production of a new generation of nuclear weapons. It is just not credible that the scale of redevelopment is solely to preserve the existing capabilities of the establishment.

In December 2006, the Government's White Paper on Trident Replacement - which advocated replacing the submarines for Britain's nuclear weapons system – stated that a decision on the warheads had not yet been made, but would be made in the lifetime of the next Parliament. Either that's not true and they have already decided, or they are so certain of the outcome they have gone ahead and upgraded Aldermaston anyway.

[ ... ]

The equipment includes a new £20 million supercomputer, called Larch. This will give AWE one of the most powerful computer systems in Europe, possibly only exceeded by the supercomputers used in the US for their nuclear weapons development.

The computer simulations provided will be augmented by experimental data provided by other new facilities being built at the site. Crucial amongst these is the housing for the new Orion laser – a thousand times more powerful than the old laser. This will also be used to get a better understanding of the physics behind nuclear explosions and will aid the computer simulations that will be used in the design of the new warheads.

At the moment the government seems to be trying to ride two horses at once. Since Gordon Brown has been Prime Minister, there have been a number of high-level statements stressing the importance of steps towards disarmament by the nuclear-armed states. It has recognised the relationship between the failure to disarm and the increased likelihood of proliferation.

~ more... ~

 

Missile Agency Under Fire

When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld returned to the Pentagon in 2001, he immediately set out to reorganize the nation's missile defense program into a powerful new agency that operated without the kind of oversight normally applied to Pentagon programs.

Democrats did not particularly like what Rumsfeld was doing in creating the Missile Defense Agency, but they did not have the political muscle to stop him. And after Sept. 11, the "whatever it takes" mind set that had taken hold in Washington further dampened their ability to challenge the program.

For example, Democrats mostly failed in their attempts to reduce the agency's budget, which Republicans fed with tens of billions of dollars on the strength of Rumsfeld's A-vision of a missile system that could defend the country and its allies from potential nuclear threats such as Iran and North Korea.

Now, energized by their majority status and fueled by reports from watchdogs such as the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Democrats are starting to rein in the agency and what they consider the Bush administration's questionable plan for missile defense by exerting closer oversight and budgetary constraints.

They say the MDA, which received $9 billion this year, operates too far outside normal government supervision, and that it has been allowed to take an inappropriately large role in selling U.S. missile capabilities abroad.

The MDA also faces questions related to its technical capabilities, as experts debate whether the testing that's been done so far justifies the Bush administration's effort to rapidly deploy the system. There is now a limited missile defense system on the West Coast, but some former Defense officials, rocket scientists and experts at defense think tanks say the system offers only rudimentary protection from ballistic missiles.

This criticism comes at a time in which the MDA is in transition itself, as it evolves from an experimental agency operating in its own sphere into a more mature defense system whose programs are increasingly incorporated into the armed services and whose actions are integral to U.S. relationships with allies and partners.

[ ... ]

Defense-minded Democrats such as Tauscher are caught between their general support for missile defense and their desire to bring more accountability to the program.

Congress has appropriated more than $100 billion for missile defense since the program was started in the 1980s. Current forecasts are that Congress will be asked to spend another $50 billion or so between now and 2013.

For all its faults and failings, though, missile defense in an age of terrorism is difficult for politicians to challenge, even for the Democrats and moderate Republicans who have doubts about the program.

In the end, the system gets support because it has a loyal and powerful contingent of backers in Congress who argue that the United States cannot afford to spare any expense in countering the growing threat of ballistic missiles.

[ ... ]

But critics say the administration, in its rush to deploy the system, has ignored the sound acquisition and good-governance practices that would increase the chances for success.

Thomas Christie, who from 2001 to 2005 was the Pentagon's director of operational testing and evaluation, said the Pentagon's policy of producing components before they've been shown to work as part of a larger missile defense system ran counter to the usual "fly before you buy" axiom of government procurement.

[ ... ]

Overall, Congress gave the MDA about $8.7 billion for fiscal 2008, $185 million less than Bush's $8.85 billion request, taking some funds away from futuristic technology programs.

As part of their strategy of incrementally expanding the examination and control of missile defense programs, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs has started an investigation of the program and has begun a series of public hearings.

~ full article ~

 

India's 'curry bomb'

Indian army chiefs are set to deploy a 'curry bomb' to win the war on terror.

 
Weapons development experts have created an eye-watering spice bomb, packed with a potent mix of red chilli and pepper which will be used to smoke out militants during counter-insurgency operations.

As Britain's legion of Friday-night Vindaloo casualties will testify, too much chilli can be debilitating. But scientists from India's Defence Research and Development Organisation have discovered that the spices which make your curry burn can also bring an enemy to his knees in seconds.

They have created an 81mm grenade packed with red hot chilli, pepper and phosphorus to use in Kashmir where Islamic separatists linked with al-Qa'eda are fighting a long-running insurgency war.

~ read on... ~

 

Nuclear move reported in Iran

From an AP report :

Iran has assembled hundreds of advanced machines reflecting a possible intention to speed up uranium enrichment, diplomats told The Associated Press.

One diplomat said more than 300 of the centrifuges have been linked up in two separate units in Iran's underground enrichment plant and a third was being assembled. He said the machines apparently are more advanced than the thousands already running underground, suggesting they could be the sophisticated IR-2 centrifuge that Tehran recently acknowledged testing.

But a senior diplomat said that while the new work appeared to include advanced centrifuges, they were not IR-2s. He added that it was unclear whether the machines were above or below ground.

The location is significant, because the aboveground site at Natanz is for experimental work and the underground facility is the working enrichment plant.

A third diplomat — who like the other two closely follows Iran's nuclear program — confirmed that Iran had started linking up advanced centrifuges in a configuration used for enrichment. But he said all remained above ground and none was running.

'Resisting war taxes is really very simple'

From How To Resist The War Without Hitting The Streets :

War tax resistance is an act of civil disobedience with a long history, from before the War of Independence when taxes were levied to pay for the French and Indian war through Henry David Thoreau, who said, during the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, "If a thousand [people] were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them and enable the state to commit violence and shed innocent blood" to the historic peace churches--Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren-- Ernest Bromley who became the first modern tax resister in 1942 when he refused payment of $7.09 for a "defense tax stamp" required for all cars to Joan Baez to Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle who urged citizens to refuse to pay 50 percent of their income taxes to protest spending on nuclear weapons.

Many who refuse to pay war taxes believe--some citing international law--this refusal is just. The federal government, however, considers refusal to pay taxes illegal and imposes potential consequences through the IRS collection system on those who don't like war. With the privatization of the IRS, these consequences could get bogged down in red tape. The government does its best to stop this but is hamstrung by telephone tax resisters: there are so many and so little tax owed per person that the IRS loses money every time it makes a collection. Even the simplest IRS paperwork is far too expensive to be worth following up on resistance to war. As privatizers are interested in profit, the result may be a total lack of follow-through.

Musical Innerlube: Ameno - DJ Quicksilver Remix

'For some of those involved in the Guantánamo decisions, prudence may well dictate a more cautious approach to international travel'

 
The abuse, rising to the level of torture, of those captured and detained in the war on terror is a defining feature of the presidency of George W. Bush. Its military beginnings, however, lie not in Abu Ghraib, as is commonly thought, or in the "rendition" of prisoners to other countries for questioning, but in the treatment of the very first prisoners at Guantánamo. Starting in late 2002 a detainee bearing the number 063 was tortured over a period of more than seven weeks. In his story lies the answer to a crucial question: How was the decision made to let the U.S. military start using coercive interrogations at Guantánamo?

The Bush administration has always taken refuge behind a "trickle up" explanation: that is, the decision was generated by military commanders and interrogators on the ground. This explanation is false. The origins lie in actions taken at the very highest levels of the administration—by some of the most senior personal advisers to the president, the vice president, and the secretary of defense. At the heart of the matter stand several political appointees—lawyers—who, it can be argued, broke their ethical codes of conduct and took themselves into a zone of international criminality, where formal investigation is now a very real option. This is the story of how the torture at Guantánamo began, and how it spread.

One day last summer I sat in a garden in London with Dr. Abigail Seltzer, a psychiatrist who specializes in trauma victims. She divides her time between Great Britain's National Health Service, where she works extensively with asylum seekers and other refugees, and the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. It was uncharacteristically warm, and we took refuge in the shade of some birches. On a table before us were three documents. The first was a November 2002 "action memo" written by William J. (Jim) Haynes II, the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense, to his boss, Donald Rumsfeld; the document is sometimes referred to as the Haynes Memo. Haynes recommended that Rumsfeld give "blanket approval" to 15 out of 18 proposed techniques of aggressive interrogation. Rumsfeld duly did so, on December 2, 2002, signing his name firmly next to the word "Approved." Under his signature he also scrawled a few words that refer to the length of time a detainee can be forced to stand during interrogation: "I stand for 8–10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"

The second document on the table listed the 18 proposed techniques of interrogation, all of which went against long-standing U.S. military practice as presented in the Army Field Manual. The 15 approved techniques included certain forms of physical contact and also techniques intended to humiliate and to impose sensory deprivation. They permitted the use of stress positions, isolation, hooding, 20-hour interrogations, and nudity. Haynes and Rumsfeld explicitly did not rule out the future use of three other techniques, one of which was waterboarding, the application of a wet towel and water to induce the perception of drowning.

The third document was an internal log that detailed the interrogation at Guantánamo of a man identified only as Detainee 063, whom we now know to be Mohammed al-Qahtani, allegedly a member of the 9/11 conspiracy and the so-called 20th hijacker. According to this log, the interrogation commenced on November 23, 2002, and continued until well into January. The techniques described by the log as having been used in the interrogation of Detainee 063 include all 15 approved by Rumsfeld.

[ ... ]

Gonzales and Haynes laid out their case with considerable care. The only flaw was that every element of the argument contained untruths.

The real story, pieced together from many hours of interviews with most of the people involved in the decisions about interrogation, goes something like this: The Geneva decision was not a case of following the logic of the law but rather was designed to give effect to a prior decision to take the gloves off and allow coercive interrogation; it deliberately created a legal black hole into which the detainees were meant to fall. The new interrogation techniques did not arise spontaneously from the field but came about as a direct result of intense pressure and input from Rumsfeld's office. The Yoo-Bybee Memo was not simply some theoretical document, an academic exercise in blue-sky hypothesizing, but rather played a crucial role in giving those at the top the confidence to put pressure on those at the bottom. And the practices employed at Guantánamo led to abuses at Abu Ghraib.

The fingerprints of the most senior lawyers in the administration were all over the design and implementation of the abusive interrogation policies. Addington, Bybee, Gonzales, Haynes, and Yoo became, in effect, a torture team of lawyers, freeing the administration from the constraints of all international rules prohibiting abuse.

[ ... ]

Jim Haynes and Donald Rumsfeld may have reversed themselves about al-Qahtani in January 2003, but the death blow to the administration's outlook did not occur for three more years. It came on June 29, 2006, with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, holding that Guantánamo detainees were entitled to the protections provided under Geneva's Common Article 3. The Court invoked the legal precedents that had been sidestepped by Douglas Feith and John Yoo, and laid bare the blatant illegality of al-Qahtani's interrogation. A colleague having lunch with Haynes that day described him as looking "shocked" when the news arrived, adding, "He just went pale." Justice Anthony Kennedy, joining the majority, pointedly observed that "violations of Common Article 3 are considered 'war crimes.' "

Jim Haynes appears to remain a die-hard supporter of aggressive interrogation. Shortly after the Supreme Court decision, when he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy reminded him that in 2003 Haynes had said there was "no way" that Geneva could apply to the Afghan conflict and the war on terror. "Do you now accept that you were mistaken in your legal and policy determinations?," Leahy asked. Haynes would say only that he was bound by the Supreme Court's decision.

As the consequences of Hamdan sank in, the instinct for self-preservation asserted itself. The lawyers got busy. Within four months President Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act. This created a new legal defense against lawsuits for misconduct arising from the "detention and interrogation of aliens" between September 11, 2001, and December 30, 2005. That covered the interrogation of al-Qahtani, and no doubt much else. Signing the bill on October 17, 2006, President Bush explained that it provided "legal protections that ensure our military and intelligence personnel will not have to fear lawsuits filed by terrorists simply for doing their jobs."

In a word, the interrogators and their superiors were granted immunity from prosecution. Some of the lawyers who contributed to this legislation were immunizing themselves. The hitch, and it is a big one, is that the immunity is good only within the borders of the United States.

[ ... ]

It would be wrong to consider the prospect of legal jeopardy unlikely. I remember sitting in the House of Lords during the landmark Pinochet case, back in 1999—in which a prosecutor was seeking the extradition to Spain of the former Chilean head of state for torture and other international crimes—and being told by one of his key advisers that they had never expected the torture convention to lead to the former president of Chile's loss of legal immunity. In my efforts to get to the heart of this story, and its possible consequences, I visited a judge and a prosecutor in a major European city, and guided them through all the materials pertaining to the Guantánamo case. The judge and prosecutor were particularly struck by the immunity from prosecution provided by the Military Commissions Act. "That is very stupid," said the prosecutor, explaining that it would make it much easier for investigators outside the United States to argue that possible war crimes would never be addressed by the justice system in the home country—one of the trip wires enabling foreign courts to intervene. For some of those involved in the Guantánamo decisions, prudence may well dictate a more cautious approach to international travel. And for some the future may hold a tap on the shoulder.

'With this program, the Pentagon aims to exponentially increase the paranoia'

 
We at Tomdispatch love anniversaries. So how could we have forgotten DARPA's for so many months? This very year, the Pentagon's research outfit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), turns 50 years old. Happy birthday, DARPA! You were born as a response to the Soviet Union's launching of the first earth-girdling satellite, Sputnik, which gave Americans a mighty shock. To prevent another "technological surprise" by the Soviets -- or anybody else, anytime, ever -- the agency has grown into the Pentagon's good right arm, always there to reach into the future and grab another wild idea for weaponization. Each year, DARPA now spends about $3 billion on a two-fold mission: "to prevent technological surprise for us and to create technological surprise for our adversaries."
 
[ ... ]
 
Biological weapons delivered by cyborg insects. It sounds like a nightmare scenario straight out of the wilder realms of science fiction, but it could be a reality, if a current Pentagon project comes to fruition.

Right now, researchers are already growing insects with electronics inside them. They're creating cyborg moths and flying beetles that can be remotely controlled. One day, the U.S. military may field squadrons of winged insect/machine hybrids with on-board audio, video or chemical sensors. These cyborg insects could conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions on distant battlefields, in far-off caves, or maybe even in cities closer to home, and transmit detailed data back to their handlers at U.S. military bases.

Today, many people fear U.S. government surveillance of email and cell phone communications. With this program, the Pentagon aims to exponentially increase the paranoia. Imagine a world in which any insect fluttering past your window may be a remote-controlled spy, packed with surveillance equipment. Even more frightening is the prospect that such creatures could be weaponized, and the possibility, according to one scientist intimately familiar with the project, that these cyborg insects might be armed with "bio weapons."

CIA enlists Google's help for spy work

Google has been recruited by US intelligence agencies to help them better process and share information they gather about suspects.

Agencies such as the National Security Agency have bought servers on which Google-supplied search technology is used to process information gathered by networks of spies around the world.

Google is also providing the search features for a Wikipedia-style site, called Intellipedia, on which agents post information about their targets that can be accessed and appended by colleagues, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The contracts are just a number that have been entered into by Google's 'federal government sales team', that aims to expand the company's reach beyond its core consumer and enterprise operations.

~ read on... ~

 

States may free inmates to save millions

Lawmakers from California to Kentucky are trying to save money with a drastic and potentially dangerous budget-cutting proposal: releasing tens of thousands of convicts from prison, including drug addicts, thieves and even violent criminals.

Officials acknowledge that the idea carries risks, but they say they have no choice because of huge budget gaps brought on by the slumping economy.

"If we don't find a way to better manage the population at the state prison, we will be forced to spend money to expand the state's prison system — money we don't have," said Jeff Neal, a spokesman for Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri.
At least eight states are considering freeing inmates or sending some convicts to rehabilitation programs instead of prison, according to an Associated Press analysis of legislative proposals. If adopted, the early release programs could save an estimated $450 million in California and Kentucky alone.
 
 

When a Great Power Goes Mad

From Consortium News :

" ... In the news media, there were specials, including a much-touted PBS Frontline two-parter on "Bush's War" which followed the mainstream line of mostly accepting the Bush administration's good intentions while blaming the disaster on policy execution – a lack of planning, bureaucratic rivalries, rash decisions and wishful thinking.

The chief interviews for the program were with former Bush administration officials and with journalists – such as Michael Gordon and John Burns of the New York Times whose influential reporting helped set the stage for the war – and with Bob Woodward, whose Bush at War was a generally flattering account of Bush's decision-making.

Remaining outside the frame of mainstream U.S. debate was any serious examination of the war's fundamental illegality.

During the post-World War II trials at Nuremberg, the United States led the world in decrying aggressive war as "the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

Yet, Frontline and other mainstream U.S. news outlets shy away from this central fact of the Iraq War: by invading Iraq without the approval of the U.N. Security Council and under false pretenses, the Bush administration released upon the Iraqi people "the accumulated evil of the whole" – and committed the "supreme" war crime.

An obvious reason why the mainstream U.S. press can't handle this truth is that to do so would mean that President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, a host of other U.S. officials and even some prominent journalists could be regarded as war criminals.

[ ... ]

In evaluating this corrupt political/media elite, a historian might want to go back even further and wonder how someone as eminently unqualified and unfit as George W. Bush became president of the most powerful nation on earth.

How did a technologically sophisticated country like the United States with a relatively free press get led down this dangerous path? Why did so many American voters in 2000 believe made-up stories about Al Gore's supposed delusions, like the apocryphal quote, "I invented the Internet"?

Indeed, how did a seemingly endless supply of myths and half-truths take root in the American psyche?

Going back even a bit further, how were Americans sold on the happy tales of Ronald Reagan's presidency as the blood of U.S.-supported dirty wars in Central America and elsewhere was washed from the nation's memory bank?

Why in a media environment with 24-hour cable news programming has intelligent dissent against U.S. foreign policy been so marginalized and excluded? Why are editors and producers so afraid of allowing some of these voices to be heard? How has such a destructive "group think" been allowed to take hold?

One of the obvious answers is fear – at least fear that one's career would be irreparably damaged by wandering too far outside the safety of the herd.

And while running with that herd, it's understood that there's much greater safety in veering right, given the well-funded conservative attack groups that have devoured the careers of many independent-minded journalists who refused to bend.

[ ... ]

But it is a flexible form of insanity in which reality is alternatively banished – as it was in the early phases of the Iraq War, from WMD "mushroom clouds" through "Mission Accomplished" – and then is brought in for retooling when matters get too far out of control, when the jarring gap between the official line and the truth starts to destabilize the national political consensus.

In listening to the measured tones of the Frontline narration – not to mention the well-dressed ex-government officials and the well-spoken mainstream journalists – I was left with the feeling that a new synthetic "reality" was being lowered in to replace the older discredited version.

It was as if the bloody madness that President Bush inflicted on the people of Iraq – aided and abetted by many witting and unwitting American accomplices – was being drained of its crimson hue and stripped of its human horrors.

Forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead and maimed. Forget the innumerable lives destroyed and the millions displaced. Forget the bizarre forms of torture at Abu Ghraib and the widespread mistreatment of detainees at other Iraqi prisons.

After all, we were being told, the war's architects were honorable and reasonable men and women who were trying to do the right thing, but sadly they were undermined by bureaucratic inertia, back-biting and, yes, incompetence. It was just one big SNAFU.

The schizoid fracture: Practice and preaching in western affairs

 
Something remarkable has happened in the struggle for greater freedom and democracy. The world's most powerful nation and the traditional beacon for democracy, the United States, has slid backwards. One of the world's poorest nations and the world's most populous Islamic state, Indonesia, has moved distinctly forward. And yet western discourse largely ignores this development, as evidenced by the sweeping speech on democracy delivered by the foreign secretary, David Miliband, last month.

The first flaw of western discourse is its inability to practise what it preaches in this respect: to speak truth to power. This is revealed in the reluctance of western governments to discuss the most catastrophic reversal in the field of human rights: the decision by the US government to defend the use of torture. In the evolution of human rights there have been two quantum leaps: the first was the universal abolition of slavery; the second, the move towards abolishing torture.

[ ... ]

The second flaw in western discourse is the refusal to recognise its track record of double standards in the promotion of human rights and democracy. When a western country has to choose between promoting its values or defending its interests, interests always trump values. No western country promotes democracy in Saudi Arabia. Too many interests would have to be sacrificed in doing so. But in states such as Burma and Zimbabwe, where no major western interests are at risk, values can take primacy. When Tashkent agreed to host a valuable American military base in the battle against terrorism, the British ambassador, Craig Murray, was forced to resign in protest against the silence of his government on human rights abuses in Uzbekistan.

We are moving toward a more intelligent world. Globally, the number of highly educated people, especially in Asia, has never been higher. They can now make well-informed judgments about what the west does with human rights. Hence, while the west conducts a self-congratulatory conversation on the subject, the rest of the world sees an emperor with no moral clothing.

[ ... ]

The time therefore has arrived for a new discourse between the west and the rest on freedom and democracy. In December we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This may well provide an opportunity for the west to change course; nothing can or will prevent it lecturing the world on human rights. But it could nevertheless learn to do something new: to listen to the voices from the rest of the world.

Is an International Financial Conspiracy Driving World Events?

The fact that bankers now control national monetary systems in their entirety, under laws where money is introduced only through lending at interest, has resulted in a massive debt pyramid that is teetering on collapse. This "monetarist" system was pioneered by Rockefeller-family funded economists at the University of Chicago. The rub is that when the pyramid comes down and everyone goes bankrupt the banks which have been creating money "out of thin air" will then be able to seize valuable assets for pennies on the dollar, as J.P. Morgan Chase is preparing to do with the businesses owned by Carlyle Capital. Meaningful regulation of the financial industry has been abandoned by government, and any politician that stands in the way, such as Eliot Spitzer, is destroyed. 

The total tax burden on Americans from federal, state, and local governments now exceeds forty percent of income and is rising. Today, with a recession starting, the Democratic-controlled Congress, while supporting the minuscule "stimulus" rebate, is hypocritically raising taxes further, even for middle-income earners. Back taxes, along with student loans, can no longer be eliminated by bankruptcy protection.

Gasoline prices are soaring even as companies like Exxon-Mobil are recording record profits. Other commodity prices are going up steadily, including food prices, with some countries starting to experience near-famine conditions. 40 million people in America are officially classified as "food insecure."

Corporate control of water and mineral resources has removed much of what is available from the public commons, and the deregulation of energy production has led to huge increases in the costs of electricity in many areas.

The destruction of family farming in the U.S. by NAFTA (along with family farming in Mexico and Canada) has been mirrored by policies toward other nations on the part of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Around the world, due to pressure from the "Washington consensus," local food self-sufficiency has been replaced by raising of crops primarily for export. Migration off the land has fed the population of huge slums around the cities of underdeveloped countries.

Since the 1980s the U.S. has been fighting wars throughout the world either directly or by proxy. The former Yugoslavia was dismembered by NATO. Under cover of 9/11 and by utilizing off-the-shelf plans, the U.S. is now engaged in the military conquest and permanent military occupation of the Middle East. A worldwide encirclement of Russia and China by U.S. and NATO forces is underway, and a new push to militarize space has begun. The Western powers are clearly preparing for at least the possibility of another world war.

The expansion of the U.S. military empire abroad is mirrored by the creation of a totalitarian system of surveillance at home, whereby the activities of private citizens are spied upon and tracked by technology and systems which have been put into place under the heading of the "War on Terror." Human microchip implants for tracking purposes are starting to be used. The military-industrial complex has become the nation's largest and most successful industry with tens of thousands of planners engaged in devising new and better ways, both overt and covert, to destroy both foreign and domestic "enemies."

Meanwhile, the U.S. has the largest prison population of any country on earth. Plus everyday life for millions of people is a crushing burden of government, insurance, and financial fees, charges, and paperwork. And the simplest business transactions are burdened by rake-offs for legions of accountants, lawyers, bureaucrats, brokers, speculators, and middlemen.

Finally, the deteriorating conditions of everyday life have given rise to an extraordinary level of stress-related disease, as well as epidemic alcohol and drug addiction. Governments themselves around the world engage in drug trafficking. Instead of working to lower stress levels, public policy is skewed in favor of an enormous prescription drug industry that grows rich off the declining level of health through treatment of symptoms rather than causes. Many of these heavily-advertised medications themselves have devastating side-effects.

This list should at least give us enough to go on in order to ask a hard question. Assuming again that all these things are parts of the elitist plan which Mr. Rockefeller boasts to have been developing, isn't it a little strange that the means which have been selected to achieve "peace and prosperity for the whole of humanity" involve so much violence, deception, oppression, exploitation, graft, and theft?

In fact it looks to me as though "our plan for the world" is one that is based on genocide, world war, police control of populations, and seizure of the world's resources by the financial elite and their puppet politicians and military forces.

In particular, could there be a better way to accomplish all this than what appears to be a concentrated plan to remove from people everywhere in the world the ability to raise their own food? After all, genocide by starvation may be slow, but it is very effective. Especially when it can be blamed on "market forces."

~ full article ~

 

The Borrowitz Report: Market Tumbles on News That Bush Is Still President

White House Appearance 'A Painful Reminder,' Experts Say

President George W. Bush used a Rose Garden appearance today to reassure investors that he was at the helm of the U.S. economy, causing stock markets to plummet around the world.

"You don't have to worry about this economy, because I am in charge of it," said Mr. Bush, touching off what some observers were calling a global financial panic.

Mr. Bush began his remarks about the economy at 10:30 A.M. eastern time, and by 10:31 markets around the world had already gone into a perilous free-fall.

[ ... ]

Elsewhere, in his first comment on the Eliot Spitzer scandal, Vice President Dick Cheney said he has never hired a prostitute because "I've been screwing the country the last seven years."

Quantum consciousness - 'Minds matter as much as matter'

Q&A: 'Consciousness is an aspect of life'

Fritjof Capra is best known as the author of The Tao of Physics. Over the last 20 years, his work has evolved to include ecology and activism. He is the founding director of the Centre for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California. He spoke with Swati Chopra:

How did you come upon the metaphor of the dance of Shiva for quantum particles, used so vividly in The Tao of Physics?

I had a profound experience sitting at a beach in California, where the boundaries faded away and I belonged to this larger whole, a cosmos which was dynamic, alive, and in motion in a patterned order of a dance. I was a particle physicist and knew what was going on around me in terms of patterns and molecules, and i had also read of the dance of Shiva. I put the two together. But it didn't really come intellectually. It was an experience.


Honderich: the thinking man's unthinking man?

Ignoring all this piss and vinegar about Honderich, is On Consciousness a book worth reading? I can agree the book is not a joy to read. The following is a representative and randomly plucked quote as an example of the obliqueness awaiting Honderich's readership: 'It seems all too plausible that in speaking of unmediated awareness of a content we refer as effectively to the very same fact as we do by speaking of a subject and a subject-content relation. I am inclined to think that is true.' I have snatched that out of context, of course, but it is no more obvious in context what it is that Honderich is inclined to think is true.
Nevertheless, there is value in Honderich's work. He does, as even McGinn comes close to conceding, at least understand the limitations of a neural-only view of consciousness. Much of the first half of the book is concerned with dismissing various philosophical theories of mind that depend on identities between neural activation and mental experience. Theories of mind that equate neural and mental states run into all sorts of problems. For example, if a neural state really dictates a given mental state then creating that neural state will create the mental state even if it is completely unknown and alien to the person. Thus I can come to understand special relativity, tort law and what it is like to be a bat merely by rearranging my neural tissue even if I have never before even heard the relevant terms or been close to the relevant situations.
Honderich argues, more plausibly, that a certain pattern of neural activity can only result in a certain mental event in an individual with the suitable history and background of experience. Normal conscious experience is where neural activity is part of the activity of a pre-experienced whole subject within a living body. To suggest otherwise is to border on absurdity.
Honderich further points out, correctly, that neural theories of consciousness tend to dismiss precisely what it is that needs to be explained. An inherent problem of neural theories is that they 'explain' consciousness in terms that just don't feel like conscious subjective experience. Whatever conscious experience is, it certainly doesn't feel like the activity of neurons. Honderich explains: 'To linger a last time at this crux, real physicalism or materialism runs up against the most resilient proposition in the history of the philosophy of the mind. It is a simple one you know about, that the properties of conscious events aren't neural ones, or aren't only neural ones. Consciousness isn't cells.'

 
"Your belief system changes your DNA instantly."
The audience goes um-hum, and Vital explains how Vital Energetic Balancing and the Quantum Prayer System work.
"In Newtonian physics, everything runs in wires. But in the quantum world, there are no wires," Vital says. "I'm all energy, yet I don't have wires coming out of me." He slithers his hands down his chest and across his bottom. No wires.
The whole universe is one consciousness and at night we receive information from it, he says — instructions, if you will. These instructions regulate our life force. But sometimes they get garbled. The average life force number is shockingly low in the United States — only 56. Fifty six!
But Vital has discovered a way to fix your life force. It's right here on his laptop, a program called the Quantum Prayer System. It prays for you in "millions of frequencies of prayers — they're not religious, they're just prayers." And it channels and amplifies those prayers to you. "Imagine everyone in China chanting your name. That powerful."
But wait, you are saying, how can the Quantum Prayer System work for me?
Well, it is very simple. The program needs to ascertain your energy signature, for which it will need your date of birth, place of birth, home address, phone number and e-mail address. "Nobody else in the universe has this energy," Vital says.
He demonstrates the program using an audience member's energy signature. A series of bar graphs pops onto the screen. This woman is very judgmental and has fungus frequencies. Does she have fungus growing maybe someplace personal? No? Well, does she eat mushrooms? Yes? Ah. That is very bad.
"How come the computer knew all this?" Vital says. "It is 97 percent accurate."
It is so sensitive that it can detect frequencies from long ago, even frequencies that have rubbed off on you from friends, family members or your dog or cat. You can catch bad frequencies over the phone.

Consciousness As Content: Neuronarratives and the Redemption of Fiction
This essay identifies a new subgenre of narrative fiction, "neuronarratives," defined as works of fiction that incorporate advances in cognitive studies as a prominent theme, that compel novelists to struggle with consciousness as "content" and to reassess the value of narrative fiction. The opening chapter of David Lodge's 2001 novel, Thinks . . ., presents a self-conscious exercise in stream-of-consciousness narration. Ralph Messenger, Lodge's co-protagonist, is a cognitive scientist endeavouring to understand and describe the workings of the human mind. As the work begins, we encounter Ralph as he dictates his own thoughts into a tape recorder-a quaintly retrograde piece of equipment given his position as the head of a fictional British university's Centre for Cognitive Science. One of the aims of the exercise, he reveals, is "to try to describe the structure of, or rather to produce a specimen, that is to say raw data, on the basis of which one might infer the structure of . . . thought" (1). Ralph is acutely aware of the "artificiality" of his experiment, recognizing the fact that his consciousness of the exercise will inevitably change the nature of his thoughts and his thought process. He wants "random" thoughts, but his project necessarily imposes some kind of order on those thoughts; it is nearly impossible, it seems, to be aware of one's thinking without allowing that awareness to alter the process itself. As he admits later in the novel, "The brain does a lot of ordering and revising before the words come out of your mouth"
[ ... ]
The problem of explaining human consciousness, or at least of explaining what scientists know of human consciousness, within the framework of a literary text presents the novelist with some interesting and revealing narrative challenges. Chief among these, I believe, is the issue of how to convey to the lay reader scientific information that he or she likely lacks, but that is essential to the narrative itself.And Lodge is not alone in facing this dilemma; indeed, in 1995, Richard Powers published his own neuronarrative (the term I will use to describe a work of fiction that has cognitive science as a, or the, main theme), entitled Galatea 2.2, a work that poses narrative challenges similar to those we find in Thinks . . .. While my focus in this essay will be on the works of Lodge and Powers, a growing list of narrative works, including Powers's recent The Echo Maker, Ian McEwan's Saturday, Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, and A.S. Byatt's A Whistling Woman, follows suit in foregrounding the emerging fields of neuroscience and neurobiology. These works, I propose, constitute an emerging subgenre of literature that can provide us with a glimpse of how authors are responding to scientific advances concerning the nature of human consciousness.
[ ... ]
We see in both of the novels the establishment, or at least the representation, of a classic binary opposition between scientific knowledge on the one hand and that ineffable something that the humanities purports to offer on the other. For lack of a better term, we might call that something "understanding," in a hermeneutic rather than an epistemological sense. And at the end of each neuronarrative, the fictionalized novelists seem to recognize the apparent marginality and relative impotence of such understanding vis-a-vis the concrete knowledge produced through scientific investigation.
[ ... ]
The problem of epistemology is the remainder at the end of these two novels and it is, I believe, what prevents the convergence of the two cultures that we see represented in the narratives from enduring. The novelists can tell the story of scientific advances in the field of cognition, but they are unable to abide by the implications of that narrative. If understanding inner reality as a hermeneutic enterprise gives way to understanding the reality of the inner (the mind) through purely scientific means, then the humanities would seem to have lost something, at least if we read the relatively somber endings of these two novels symbolically. The re-divergence of the two cultures at the end of each of our neuronarratives possibly reveals the extent to which the humanities are still threatened by the potential resolution of the problem of epistemology on scientific terms and the extent to which the scientific community is still skeptical about the knowledge value of literature and the humanities more generally.As I claimed at the outset of this essay, however, the distance between the two cultures does not seem to be as great in the contemporary real world as it appears to be in these novels. Columbia University alone, in fact, now has Oliver Sacks teaching creative writing students and literary scholars instructing future medical doctors.


New Evidence Proves James Bond was Based on Occult Knowledge
A remarkable new discovery by international best selling author, Philip Gardiner, has revealed that Ian Fleming based his fictional character on occult knowledge he had accumulated over the course of his life.

The new book, The Bond Code, reveals how Fleming included special etymological and numerological codes within his Bond novels to re-create ancient sacred tales of deep psychological importance. Drawing upon esoteric knowledge and an understanding of alchemy, Ian Fleming produced a work no different to the tales of the Holy Grail or dragon slaying fairy tales, within which lay the ancient understanding of human wisdom.

The author, Philip Gardiner, is an expert on esoteric philosophy and etymology and realised there was a code at play when watching the film, Live and Let Die. For two years he researched Ian Fleming and read his novels, discovering vast amounts of information previously unrealised.

Using his knowledge of codes from his time in Naval Intelligence, Ian Fleming also drew around him a conclave of mystically inclined individuals, created his own sacred retreat and embarked upon a quest to deal with his own personal issues.

The Bond Code reveals some stark facts: that Ian Fleming utilised Tantric sexual rites in-order to raise his consciousness; that he understood the process of subliminal writing; that alchemy was an ancient form of psychology; that man's mind was divided and needed reunification.

The author, Philip Gardiner, is an expert on esoteric philosophy and etymology and realised there was a code at play when watching the film, Live and Let Die. For two years he researched Ian Fleming and read his novels, discovering vast amounts of information previously unrealised.

Using his knowledge of codes from his time in Naval Intelligence, Ian Fleming also drew around him a conclave of mystically inclined individuals, created his own sacred retreat and embarked upon a quest to deal with his own personal issues.

The Bond Code reveals some stark facts: that Ian Fleming utilised Tantric sexual rites in-order to raise his consciousness; that he understood the process of subliminal writing; that alchemy was an ancient form of psychology; that man's mind was divided and needed reunification.

Released on April 15th, The Bond Code has already drawn the attention of many Freemasons following a three hour National American Radio Show. Many have revealed that they had wondered whether Fleming was in fact a Mason himself, due to the rituals they had seen within the films.


Minds matter as much as matter

Many years ago in the 17th century the French philosopher and mathematician, Rene Descartes, once and forever famously "thought" and, for that reason alone, declared that he must "be". Cogito ergo sum; I think, therefore I am. But Descartes was the last person in science for a long time to argue so positively that ideas had an autonomous existence which were not dependent on any material structure. However, as far as the whole mind was concerned, he didn't disengage it from the brain altogether and postulated that they mutually networked at the pineal gland. It was a kind of interactive dualism that science was to reject for more than 350 years.

Mainly because, thereafter, the mainstream materialist view came to be that solidity and matter on the one hand and mind-like entities on the other, constitute not only two different realms of ontological being but that mind by itself probably doesn't even exist — being at most a tenuous epiphenomenon; something unable to cast a shadow on reality; the ghost in the machine.

Then Einstein happened and he managed to irrevocably demonstrate the equivalence of matter and energy with e = mc squared. The equation showed that something considered insubstantial, ethereal and subtle could, indeed, be reduced to tangible stuff like rocks and material substances. Still, energy was not the same thing as, say, consciousness. But quantum theory came along next and this finally required the actual active participation of human awareness in psychophysical events.

Interestingly, neither the content nor the timing of these events is determined, even statistically, by any known law because the theory considers such events to be instigated by choices made by conscious agents.

Or as physicist Henry Stapp of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US puts it: "This quantum conception of the mind-brain connection allows many neuropsychological findings associated with the apparent physical effectiveness. According to this quantum approach, conscious human beings are invested with degrees of freedom denied to the mechanistic automatons to which classical physics reduced us."

In other words, a completely deterministic account of the physically described properties of nature is no longer viable. The mind and our consciousnesses play as big a part as our brains in resolving matters of existence.
 

Nabokov's synesthesia

The Russian author Vladimir Nabokov described his synesthesia in his autobiography. His mother first noticed his interesting visual perceptions when he was a young child and told her the colors on his blocks were wrong. She recognized that he had the rare condition because she too had synethesia.

Duke Ellington saw musical notes in color. Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman experienced it while creating the quantum theory. David Hockney said it helped him design sets for the Metropolitan Opera.

The first thing people ask synesthetes is whether they see letters and words in color on the printed page or on a computer screen. The answer is no because the colors are imprinted in the mind.

One synesthete recalls telling her mother about it, who then promptly suggested she get her eyes tested. Synesthesia doesn't work that way. Colors on the internal computer screen have been imprinted usually since childhood, and that person's colors almost never change over time.

While the most common form of synesthesia is called color-grapheme, where people associate colors with letters, words and numbers, other people may have other crossings of the senses such as hearing green and tasting velvet.

Synethesia literally means "joined sensation" and shares a root with the word anesthesia, which means having no sensation. Most synesthetes would probably describe having the idiosyncratic perceptions as far back as they can remember.

Synesthesia is not a new phenomenon. It has been known for about 300 years. It peaked as a scientific focus around the turn of the 20th century. After decades of declining interest, it is now being studied throughout the world. Part of the renewed interest is due to the fact that synesthetes use the Internet to discover more about it and talk to each other about their experiences.

~ more... ~

 

'Earthkeepers say that we are dreaming the world into being'

From How Shamans Dream the World into Being by Alberto Villoldo :

Courageous dreaming allows you to create from the source, the quantum soup of the Universe where everything exists in a latent or potential state. Physicists understand that in the quantum world nothing is "real" until it is observed. The distinct packets of energy known as "quanta" (which consist of particles of matter as well as light) are neither "here" nor "there"; in a sense, they are everywhere in space-time until you or I decide to observe them. When we take note of them, we tease them out of the web of infinite possibilities and collapse them into an event that exists while we witness it. These energy "quanta" like to link up with each other once they've selected a particular form of manifestation. As soon as they manifest, reality becomes fixed: A particle is "here" instead of possibly everywhere.

But quantum events do not occur in the laboratory only. They also happen inside our brain, on this page, and everywhere around us. Even if they are separated by millions of miles, or by days or weeks, these quanta of energy remain intimately linked, so that if you interact with one, you affect the entire system that this energy is part of. When you access any part of the dream, the great matrix of energy, you can change reality and alter the entire dream.

Modern physics is describing what the ancient wisdomkeepers of the Americas have long known. These shamans, known as the Earthkeepers, say that we are dreaming the world into being through the very act of witnessing it. Scientists believe that we are only able to do this in the very small, subatomic world. Shamans understand that we also dream the larger world that we experience with our senses. Like the Aborigines, the Earthkeepers live in a world where the dreamtime has not been pushed into the domain of sleep like it has for us. They know that all of creation arises from, and returns to, this dreamtime.

The dreamtime, the creative matrix, does not exist in a place outside of us. Rather, it infuses all matter and energy, connecting every creature, every rock, every star, and every ray of light or bit of cosmic dust. The power to dream is the power to participate in creation itself. For the Earthkeepers, dreaming reality is not only an ability but a duty, one we must perform with grace and love so that our grandchildren will inherit a world where they can live in peace and abundance.

 

Film director Zack Snyder ('300') an avid low-tech fan

From Living Large :

After Snyder wrapped up Watchmen he sent the camera back to its creator for an upgrade that turned it into a Littman VI, a more recent iteration that adds the unique, patent-pending ability to precisely adjust the parallelism of film and lens planes. "William kept it for quite a while, and I felt naked without it," says the director... "I hadn't realized how dependent I'd become on it." It was worth the wait, though, because in the process Littman restyled Snyder's camera into a spectacular designer model he dubbed the "Arabella." Its owner seems to be unaware of its florid name, which is more likely a reference to Richard Strauss's lyric opera than to Winston Churchill's eccentric Buddhist granddaughter.

"It's meant to evoke the Hollywood African adventure movies of the 1930s," says Littman, who accented the camera with exotic Thuja burlwood (a "noble African wood," he says) and decorated its focusing wheel with an African tribal shield. "I was going for a Johnny Weismuller-meets-Gatsby sort of thing." Snyder is less descriptive. "It's super cool, and gets a lot of attention when I'm walking around and shooting with it," he says. "And now instead of keeping it in its Pelican case I put it on my bookcase because I like to look at it." Cosmetics aside, Snyder reports that the upgrade has improved both viewfinder and focusing, and also makes the camera easier to hold securely, important given the slower shutter speeds his film speed often demands. "It was always super-reliable and pretty bulletproof," he comments. "But now it's just a little more effortless to operate."

Despite its beauty and mechanical precision, the camera is also a throwback technically and mechanically -- and that's the way Snyder likes it. "It's become my snapshot camera, so I had it with me when I was just on vacation in the Turks and Caicos," says the director, whose upcoming movie, The Last Photograph, will be about a war photographer in Afghanistan. "I was walking on the beach and using close-up diopters to shoot weird stuff in the sand, using a tape measure to set the focus. This guy walks by and says, 'You know, they've got that all figured out now, they have autofocus cameras.' And I go, 'Yeah, they want your soul too, so I think I'll stay with this.'"

Disentangling "the mad and bad conspiracies from those that illuminate the darkened, secret corners of power"

From Buzzflash Review: The Mammoth Book of Cover-Ups: The 100 Most Terrifying Conspiracies of All Time :
 
"The one hundred conspiracy theories of all time-from Harold Wilson as a Soviet agent to Princess Diana's death, from the attacks on 9/11 in the U.S. and on 7/7 in London. This volume presents research and plausible cover-up theories for the reader to judge."

From the publisher:

"Everything 'they' don't want you to know -- and were afraid you might ask. Who really assassinated JFK? Was Princess Diana murdered by MI5 despite the denials? Do the Illuminati covertly rule the world? Historian Jon E. Lewis explores the 100 most far-reaching cover-ups of all time, from the invention of Jesus's divinity to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair's real agenda for invading Iraq. Each case is clearly and closely documented, and Lewis assigns each cover-up a plausibility rating. Uncover why the Titanic sank; ponder the sinister Vatican/ Mafia network that plotted the assassination of liberal John Paul I; find out why NASA 'lost' its files on Mars; read why no-one enters Area 51; and consider why medical supplies were already on site at Edgware Road before the 7/7 bombs detonated. You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to find that something smells fishy in these eye-opening accounts -- just someone who doesn't believe everything he's told."

From BuzzFlash: The "top 100" conspiracy possiblities are arranged in this alphabetically organized book by Jon E. Lewis, who does a great job of getting to the essence of the pro- and con- side of each conspiracy theory. He has set up an "alert scale" that goes from not believable at 0 (the "Holocaust was a fake" and "Elvis lives") to a whopping 9 that British WMD whistle-blower David Kelly was murdered -- and a 7 that TWA Flight 800 was shot down by friendly fire.
 
 

Centers Tap Into Personal Databases

Intelligence centers run by states across the country have access to personal information about millions of Americans, including unlisted cellphone numbers, insurance claims, driver's license photographs and credit reports, according to a document obtained by The Washington Post.

One center also has access to top-secret data systems at the CIA, the document shows, though it's not clear what information those systems contain.

Dozens of the organizations known as fusion centers were created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to identify potential threats and improve the way information is shared. The centers use law enforcement analysts and sophisticated computer systems to compile, or fuse, disparate tips and clues and pass along the refined information to other agencies. They are expected to play important roles in national information-sharing networks that link local, state and federal authorities and enable them to automatically sift their storehouses of records for patterns and clues.

Though officials have publicly discussed the fusion centers' importance to national security, they have generally declined to elaborate on the centers' activities. But a document that lists resources used by the fusion centers shows how a dozen of the organizations in the northeastern United States rely far more on access to commercial and government databases than had previously been disclosed.

Those details have come to light at a time of debate about domestic intelligence efforts, including eavesdropping and data-aggregation programs at the National Security Agency, and whether the government has enough protections in place to prevent abuses.

~ read on... ~

 

USA 2008: The Great Depression

Dismal projections by the Congressional Budget Office in Washington suggest that in the fiscal year starting in October, 28 million people in the US will be using government food stamps to buy essential groceries, the highest level since the food assistance programme was introduced in the 1960s.

The increase – from 26.5 million in 2007 – is due partly to recent efforts to increase public awareness of the programme and also a switch from paper coupons to electronic debit cards. But above all it is the pressures being exerted on ordinary Americans by an economy that is suddenly beset by troubles. Housing foreclosures, accelerating jobs losses and fast-rising prices all add to the squeeze.

Emblematic of the downturn until now has been the parades of houses seized in foreclosure all across the country, and myriad families separated from their homes. But now the crisis is starting to hit the country in its gut. Getting food on the table is a challenge many Americans are finding harder to meet. As a barometer of the country's economic health, food stamp usage may not be perfect, but can certainly tell a story.

Michigan has been in its own mini-recession for years as its collapsing industrial base, particularly in the car industry, has cast more and more out of work. Now, one in eight residents of the state is on food stamps, double the level in 2000.

~ more... ~

 

Rice Jumps to Record, Corn Near High as Demand Outpaces Supply

Rice climbed to a record and corn traded near its highest ever on speculation a 3 percent annual increase in global demand for cereals will outstrip supply as governments curb exports to prevent protests.

Rice, the staple food for about 3 billion people, rose 2.4 percent in Chicago trading today after doubling in the past year. Soybeans advanced for the third day and wheat gained as investors bought agricultural commodities on concern dry weather in the Great Plains and heavy rain in the eastern Midwest may curtail U.S. production and push down global inventories.

The World Bank estimates ``that 33 countries around the world face potential social unrest because of the acute hike in food and energy prices,'' Robert Zoellick, the bank's president, said on the organization's Web site. For these countries ``there is no margin for survival,'' he said.

China, India and Vietnam have cut rice exports, and Indonesia has reduced import tariffs to protect food supplies and cool inflation. Rice in Chicago climbed 42 percent in the first quarter, the biggest such increase in at least 14 years. Record grain prices contributed to strikes in Argentina, riots in Ivory Coast and a crackdown on illicit exports in Pakistan.

~ read on... ~

 

Musical Innerlube: Ancient Future

Ancient Future with Irina Mikhailova & World Dancer Sapphira





World Fusion Music Documentary Featuring Ancient Future


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