Thursday, June 12, 2008

A call for the voice of the people to be heard this 4th of July




Please take the time to read this communication.

On 4th July 2008 - A peaceful non-violent demonstration will take place in cities around the world to expose the fraud, corruption and lies at the heart of our governments. It is an opportunity to express your right to free independent thought and to begin the fight to reclaim your liberties and freedoms. On the streets of London, on the sidewalks of Washington D.C, in the heart of Athens and in every other political Capital across the world, demonstrations will take place to demand a return of proper representative government. This may represent a final opportunity for the citizens of the world to stand together to demand the independent free world we all want to live in — WE the people of the world will be heard on this day 04th JULY 2008.

We encourage all citizens of the world to embark on a journey of discovery now. Through independent research you can gain an understanding of what your governments are doing in your name and the kind of world they are planning for your future. This is not about a far distant country or peoples you do not know, this is about your country, your local community, your family, your friends. It will affect all our futures and concerns all the good people of our world.

It may prove difficult to grasp, given the constant barrage of propaganda from media institutions, but YOUR government is systematically removing YOUR liberties, YOUR freedoms and YOUR very right to exist as a free thinking individual. In many countries the aim of totalitarian dictatorship has already been achieved and understand this, history teaches sound lessons to us all concerning the consequences of allowing dangerous people to take control and ‘change’ our ‘view’ of the world around us.

We at visionary-peace are promoting the 4th of July as a day of independent free thought, through peaceful protest. It represents something we can all relate to and represents why we must all stand up and shout for our freedom. The time for media diversion and lies is over. The time for demonstration is NOW. We must raise public awareness to the dangers ahead. The actions of the global elites must not be ignored by good people any longer. These thieves and liars must fail to achieve their ultimate objective now. WE are all fighting for our right to exist now, whether we realise it or not.

The plans of the New World Order are cloaked behind the veil of economic crisis, terrorism, globalisation and corporate partnership. Our governments have been effectively ‘taken-over’. Believe me, your elected representatives are not who they appear to be. Investigate their ‘backgrounds’ for yourself. Look for the family/historic/organisational connections and understand this - your democracy has been usurped by very undemocratic organisations. These people have an agenda which ultimately aims to achieve TOTAL CONTROL over the life of every individual.

‘Imagine the future as a size twelve boot stamping on the face of humanity for eternity’, because this is the future the global elite are embarking upon. It will mean the end of your freedom, the end of your liberty, the end of your choice, the end of your individuality. ONLY through protest and civil disobedience can these planned changes to our way of life be halted — Only the citizens of the world, united as ONE can stop the illegal and fraudulent conduct of our governments. TOGETHER we can put a stop to the monstrous totalitarian future our ‘elected’ representatives have planned for us.

DO YOU really want enslavement for your future? We invite every citizen of the world to seek out the truth — please raise your awareness of the issues….and be prepared — the coming years will bring the fight for freedom to you, into your neighbourhood, into your workplace and into your home.

[ Videos from Visionary Peace ]

France is plotting to create a Euro Army

Moves to create a European Army controlled from Brussels have been revealed.

France is pushing for a new dedicated military headquarters and more fighting formations.

The French take over the EU presidency next month and will use their six-month term to drive forward ambitious plans to develop Europe's own military structures - a move which critics claim will undermine Nato by excluding the U.S.

Gordon Brown was forced to make a hurried denial, playing down the prospects of a Euro Army, as the fiercely divisive issue returned to the political agenda.

Critics in the UK are deeply suspicious of strengthening the EU's military identity - fearing that the French see it as a way to challenge Washington's world dominance.

Federalists, however, see a Euro Army as a key building-block of a future super-state.

As MEPs debated EU military policy yesterday, the chairman of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee called for the Union to develop more 'hard power' military capability and spend more money on a European Army.

Jacek Saryusz-Wolski called for 'a common foreign and security policy, including a European army'.

He said MEPs should in future have the final say on military missions under the EU flag - a move which would strip member states of a fundamental responsibility.

France, which along with Germany and Poland has spearheaded support for greater EU defence capability, has already indicated that the issue will feature heavily in its presidency, starting next month.

The Eurocorps badge

The Eurocorps badge

The French are expected to call on member countries to boost defence spending and commit more helicopters and aircraft.

The proposals, to be unveiled by President Nicolas Sarkozy, will urge the creation of more of the rapid reaction formations - each consisting of 1,500 troops from member countries - which take turns to be on stand-by for EU peacekeeping or humanitarian missions abroad, wearing the Eurocorps badge.

Enthusiasts for these 'EU Battle Groups' see them as the most likely basis for a future European Army. There are currently 15, including one all-British formation, but the French are expected to push for a dramatic increase.

Opponents in Brussels responded by attacking current joint EU military efforts as 'impoverished and amateurish'.

Andrew Duff, a Liberal Democrat MEP and member of the European Council on Foreign relations, said many member states' armies were archaic and hamstrung by 'miserly' military budgets, so talk of ' burden-sharing' was often meaningless. He said recent research showed only a fifth of the two million troops across EU countries were in a fit state to be deployed abroad.

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Macedonia in EU in 2012

A group of influential European experts and former statesmen urged for specifying 2012 as a precise date for admittance of Macedonia in the European Union.
          
According to the experts of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), the Union should redefine Balkans by dividing the countries into two groups - Adriatic Peninsula and Central Balkans.
           
The first group would be comprised of Croatia, Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia, where EU has made some progress, says the article entitled "Goodbye Balkans, Hello Adriatic Peninsula", written by Daniel Korski from ECFR.
           
He suggests that EU should give the three countries of the Adriatic Region a date when they can expect to join the EU - Croatia's could be 2010, Albania's 2011 and Macedonia's 2012.
 
 

Long forgotten Condoleezza Rice article called for 'regime change’ in Iraq in 2000

Questions about prewar Iraq intelligence have been raised once again following the publication of a scathing report by a Senate committee last week week that concluded President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior administration officials knowingly lied about the threat Iraq post to win support for a military strike against the country.

Regime change in Iraq became a policy issue immediately following 9/11, but there have been allegations made by former White House officials that Iraq was a target of the Bush White House long before 9/11. The White House has vehemently denied suggestions that it was planning military action against Iraq before 9/11.

But in January of 2000, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice wrote an article for Foreign Affairs magazine titled Campaign 2000 -- Promoting the National Interest in which she called for regime change. Many of the policy suggestions in the article were later adopted when the Bush administration took office.

"As history marches toward markets and democracy, some states have been left by the side of the road. Iraq is the prototype. Saddam Hussein's regime is isolated, his conventional military power has been severely weakened, his people live in poverty and terror, and he has no useful place in international politics. He is therefore determined to develop WMD. Nothing will change until Saddam is gone, so the United States must mobilize whatever resources it can, including support from his opposition, to remove him. These regimes are living on borrowed time, so there need be no sense of panic about them. She echoed that line in August 2000, during an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, where Rice said Iraq posed the gravest threat to the U.S and the world.

"The containment of Iraq should be aimed ultimately at regime change because as long as Saddam is there no one in the region is safe -- most especially his own people," she said during the Aug. 9, 2000 interview. "If Saddam gives you a reason to use force against him, then use decisive force, not just a pinprick."

On July 29, 2001, Rice was interviewed by a CNN reporter. She was asked how the United States would respond to missiles Iraq fired at U.S. war planes patrolling the no-fly zones. She didn't mince words with her answer.

"Well, the president has made very clear that he considers Saddam Hussein to be a threat to his neighbors, a threat to security in the region, in fact a threat to international security more broadly," Rice said. "And he has reserved the right to respond when that threat becomes one that he wishes no longer to tolerate."

"But I can be certain of this, and the world can be certain of this: Saddam Hussein is on the radar screen for the administration. The administration is working hard with a number of our friends and allies to have a policy that is broad; that does look at the sanctions as something that should be restructured so that we have smart sanctions that go after the regime, not after the Iraqi people; that does look at the role of opposition in creating an environment and a regime in Baghdad that the people of Iraq deserve, rather than the one that they have; and one that looks at use of military force in a more resolute manner, and not just a manner of tit-for-tat with him every day."

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Polish PM smoked pot '…and, yes, I did inhale'

The former United States president Bill Clinton famously took cannabis but insisted he did not inhale. Poland's prime minister has no such qualms.
Donald Tusk told the Polish edition of Newsweek that he smoked marijuana while living in a workers' hostel during martial law in the 1980s.

Asked if he refrained from inhaling, Mr Tusk said: "I would never use that hypocritical Clintonian phrase, but this is really nothing worth talking about."

He was doing manual work at the time at a power plant, and the magazine noted alcohol was sometimes difficult to find in communist Poland. He said: "I never took drugs except as a juvenile stunt. Nevertheless, it is nothing to be proud of."

It is possibly the first confession of marijuana use by a leader from ex-communist eastern Europe.
Polish news video

UK: 'The Counter-Terrorism Bill has clauses and amendments galore which will have received only the most general attention'

Peter Bone counted 16 new clauses and 60 amendments to be processed in three hours. Legislators need the talent of tobacco auctioneers. Talent. It'd be like listening to the Pinky and Perky version of "I'm the very model of a modern major general."

Not that the material is suitable for light verse. Control orders. Post-charge questioning. Asset freezing. Coroners.

Yes, coroners. In future, a minister will be able to interrupt an inquest to kick out the jury, dismiss the coroner and declare the proceedings secret. Why? One reason might be that the soldier, say, lacked body armour, bullets or boots and the coroner was expressing naive disapproval. You can't have a jury hearing a case like that. They might talk. It wouldn't be in the public interest for such matters to get out. Oh no, it would damage confidence in the Government.

Oh, and if the new coroner "misbehaves", he or she can be "revoked" as well. "Misbehaviour" isn't defined but we can assume it would be misbehaviour to criticise ministers or the ministry or suggest the death was somehow avoidable or unnecessary or possibly even undesirable.

Quite a change, that.

It'll all get nodded through. As Mark Durkan said in his melancholy way, how will MPs persuade doubters of the power of scrutiny when it comes to 42 days? The proposal is that the Commons will be asked to debate – maybe on day 35 of the citizen being detained without charge – whether or not to keep him in jail for another seven days. "The noddies have it."

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Douglas Hogg (C, Sleaford and North Hykeham) observed in a fury that a mere three hours were allowed yesterday to discuss 16 new clauses and 60 amendments, including important changes to such matters as post-charge questioning, control orders, asset freezing and inquests. He said this was a "scandal" and "a serious attempt to stifle parliamentary debate", and expressed the hope that the Lords would "not hesitate" to amend legislation that the Commons had not had time to examine.

Richard Shepherd (C, Aldridge-Brownhills) protested that the Commons was being "hollowed out" and said the Upper House was being handed the legitimacy that comes from assuming MPs' proper function of scrutinising new laws.

Mark Durkan (SDLP, Foyle) lamented that when the Commons could be "treated so lightly and so glibly" it became "a nod-through House", while Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid Cymru, Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) remarked that on Thursday the House will spend "a whole day on dangerous dogs".

The effect of these protests on Tony McNulty, the Home Office minister in charge of seeing the Bill through the House, was less than nothing. Mr McNulty is very good at exuding brutish insolence. Sometimes he laughed at the people who told him he was undermining our ancient liberties and sometimes he scowled at them but at no point did he cease to suggest that this motley crew were wasting everyone's time.

Mr McNulty pointed out that a very large amount of time had been allowed to scrutinise the Bill in committee: to which a number of backbenchers objected that clearly they were not on that committee.

But yesterday afternoon the numbers were on Mr McNulty's side. On this kind of occasion, it is only a small minority of MPs who show any instinctive love of our liberties and who come to the Chamber to try to hold the executive to account. Most of our representatives have other things to do with their time and do not imagine their careers will be advanced by a quixotic insistence on their right to be given enough time to examine the laws for which they are voting.


Kidney foundation withdraws support of water fluoridation

The National Kidney Foundation withdrew its support of water fluoridation citing the 2006 National Research Council (NRC) report indicating that kidney patients are more susceptible to fluoride's bone and teeth-damaging effects.

The kidney-impaired retained more fluoride and risk skeletal fluorosis (an arthritic-type bone disease), fractures and severe enamel fluorosis, which may increase the risk of dental decay, reports the NRC.

Fluoride is added to U.S. water supplies ostensibly to reduce tooth decay. Fluoride is also in foods, beverages, drugs and dental products.

The National Kidney Foundation's (NKF) former fluoridation position statement also carried surprising cautions. The NKF advised monitoring children's fluoride intake along with patients with chronic kidney impairment, those with excessive fluoride intake, and those with prolonged disease.

NKF now admits, "Exposure from food and beverages is difficult to monitor, since FDA food labels do not quantify fluoride content."

The NKF's April 15, 2008 statement goes further: "Individuals with CKD [Chronic Kidney Disease] should be notified of the potential risk of fluoride exposure. More than 20 million Americans have CKD, and most don't even know it. More than 20 million others are at increased risk for developing CKD."

"There is consistent evidence that impairment of kidney function results in changes to the way in which fluoride is metabolized and eliminated from the body, resulting in an increased burden of fluoride," concludes Kidney Health Australia.

NKF's fluoridation support was dropped when a lawyer, an academic dentist and public health professional, Daniel Stockin, alerted it to NRC's findings.

"An easy way to reduce the uncontrolled flow of fluoride into our bodies is to stop water fluoridation," said attorney Paul Beeber, President, New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation. "But it takes political will to reject fluoridation."

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Brussels, where lobbying remains in stealth mode

 
A coalition of public interest groups is calling for tougher disclosure requirements for lobbyists, but not in Washington. These groups are pushing for tougher rules in Brussels.
Reform advocates say new rules the European Commission (EC) intends to impose on June 23 do not go far enough. They argue the requirements are toothless because they are voluntary, and present several loopholes for lobbyists to step through and avoid public disclosure.
"It simply does not deliver in terms of what the commission has stated it wants its lobbying disclosure system to do: inform EU citizens about who lobbies, on whose behalf and with which budgets," Olivier Hoedeman of the Corporate Europe Observatory, a watchdog group based in Amsterdam, wrote in an e-mail to The Hill.
The new regulations could impact a number of prominent American firms that are already lobbying the EC, the executive branch of the European Union. The EC drafts proposals for laws that must be approved by the European Council and Parliament, and also runs the EU's day-to-day operations.
The European Parliament already has a set of rules for lobbyists, but watchdog groups say it is even weaker than the proposed rules for the EC.
U.S. firms actively lobbying in Brussels include Dutko Worldwide, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and public relations giants APCO Worldwide and Burson-Marsteller.
The new EC regulations are the product of three years of preparation, and include an online, voluntary registry where lobbyists are expected to sign up and disclose their clients. European officials said the registry was in response to what has become a booming industry in the Belgian capital.
"The lobby sector is a relatively new phenomenon for us," said Anthony Smallwood, a spokesman for the European Union's Washington delegation. "We never had such a concentration of a highly skilled lobbying industry anywhere else in Europe. It has happened rather suddenly here in Brussels."
Criticism of the registry has grown over the last month. The disclosure requirements were described as falling "far short of the objective" of transparency in a letter in late May to EC President Jose Manuel Barroso by Craig Holman, campaign finance lobbyist for Public Citizen.
EU civil society groups have pressed Barroso to intervene. Friends of the Earth , an environmentalist organization, started an e-mail campaign, while the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation , a coalition of civil society groups and academics, asked him to "ensure that the commission's new register for lobbyists will deliver transparency."
Commission officials have rejected the criticism, insisting they are serious about shedding more light on the activities of lobbyists in Brussels.
"Our register will definitely produce added value compared to the current situation," said Kristian Schmidt, an EC aide to Siim Kallas, the EC vice president who led the initiative.
The influence profession is different in Brussels, lobbyists and European officials said. While lobbying firms generally raise funds for members of Congress, commissioners do not need to fundraise in order to be in office, which EU officials said lowers the chance of pay-to-play corruption.
"There are no EU scandals comparable to the Abramoff incident," said Schmidt. "The U.S. experience is an inspiration, but not a model. Washington and Brussels are not comparable political systems, even if the lobby intensity is high in both cities."
"There is no such thing as party or political contributions," said Thomas Tindemans, head of White & Case's Brussels office. "Unfortunately, you have to win by argument. If we could pay, that would just be easier," he joked.
Information is the currency for lobbyists in Brussels, these sources said, as European lawmakers do not have access to institutions similar to the Congressional Research Service or the Government Accountability Office, which research and publish reports on issues at the request of members of Congress.
 
 
 
As the Commission's upcoming voluntary lobbyists register occupies the mind of every lobbyist in Brussels, some have started to question exactly how many of them there are, casting doubt over the 15,000 figure originally put forward by the Commission.
 

Among those to question the figure is Tom Antonissen of Logos Public Affairs, a Brussels consultancy. "I estimate that the European Public Affairs Consultancies Association (EPACA), with its 35 members, represents some 500-700 lobbyists, so together with the Society of European Affairs Professionals (SEAP), with 300 individual members, we are talking about a maximum of 1,000 lobbyists," said Antonissen. 

Adding another 500 who are not members of EPACA or SEAP would still account for just 10% of the 15,000 figure, Antonissen explained, wondering "where the other 13,500 lobbyists come from". 

According to Antonissen, the remainder could come from "trade associations, NGOs and think tanks," most of which should be covered by the Commission's upcoming register, set to be made public on 23 June 2008. 

Antonissen also suggests that there may be "national governments and regional, local and cities' representatives". He also cites "churches and religious organisations". But "all of these are exempt from the Commission's register" so they should not be included in the statistics, he argues. 

Meanwhile, the European Parliament states on its website that there are 4,570 accredited lobbyists in possession of an access badge to the institution. 

Tom Spencer of the European Centre for Public Affairs argues that "because the Commission is saying it is up to you whether to register, we won't be any clearer on the figure of how many, nor where from". The EU executive "should not have been drawn in to quasi-legislation without tight definitions" of what is required, he adds. 

Spencer also believes that the issue needs to be widened to include lobbyists based outside of Brussels who nevertheless seek to influence EU policymaking. "We talk about 15,000 lobbyists in Brussels, but why?," he asks, stating that focusing the debate on Brussels "fails to define what we are really talking about here". 

 

Anti-torture activists convicted, jailed for protesting gitmo outside Supreme Court

 
Thirty-four anti-torture activists have been convicted for protesting the Guantanamo Bay prison outside the Supreme Court. Twelve are now serving jail sentences. During the trial, protesters gave their names and those of Guantanamo prisoners and dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods. We speak to Matt Daloisio of Witness Against Torture, who gave the opening statement at the trial.
Guest:

Matt Daloisio, member of Witness Against Torture. He read the opening statement at the trial. Member of the New York Catholic Worker and is on the board of the War Resisters League.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Thirty-four anti-torture activists have been convicted for protesting the Guantanamo Bay prison outside the Supreme Court. Twelve are now serving jail sentences ranging from one to fifteen days. The demonstration took place on January 11th, the sixth anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo. As they did in January, several protesters dressed like Guantanamo prisoners in orange jumpsuits and black hoods during their trial.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Daloisio is a member of Witness Against Torture. He read the opening statement at the trial. He's a member of the New York Catholic Worker, is on the board of the War Resisters League.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Matt. Talk about the trial, what you said in your statement and what's since happened.

MATT DALOISIO: As part of the trial, there were fifteen of us who chose to be silent in solidarity with the men who have no chance to speak in court. So at the beginning of the trial, I read a statement into the record, where fifteen of us who were wearing orange jumpsuits in the trial said that we've made it further in the criminal justice system in five months than men in Guantanamo have in five years, and we're going to be in solidarity with them by not defending ourselves, by not taking rights that are not granted to them.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And so, how did the trial develop then?

MATT DALOISIO: After that, the government put on its case and tried to prove how we were—we were charged with displaying a banner, flag or other device to draw attention to a political party, organization or movement in the Supreme Court.

AMY GOODMAN: I'm confused. Explain exactly what you did.

MATT DALOISIO: So, about forty of us assembled on the Supreme Court steps in orange jumpsuits and holding signs that said "Shut down Guantanamo." And about forty gathered inside the Supreme Court wearing orange T-shirts and reading accounts of prisoners in Guantanamo.

AMY GOODMAN: Inside the Supreme Court.

MATT DALOISIO: Correct.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And there's actually a law that prohibits people from having banners outside the Supreme Court?

MATT DALOISIO: Free speech ends at the Supreme Court's steps. And in this trial we weren't actually contesting the law. But we were contesting the fact that law without justice is simply a mechanism of tyranny. Inside the Supreme Court, there's a display about old Supreme Court cases, and one of them that they look as somberly is the Dred Scott decision in 1857. And we pointed out in court that we would like to think that if people in 1857 gathered on the steps and inside the Supreme Court speaking out against the Dred Scott decision, that justices in our land would be able to see that maybe we shouldn't be applying the law to this and recognize the value of speaking out against what are really crimes.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt, you now have been sentenced, but explain what is happening.

MATT DALOISIO: So twelve of our brothers and sisters are in D.C. jail doing sentences between one and fifteen days. And the rest of the defendants have suspended sentences and one-year stay away from the Supreme Court and one year of probation. And if we violate that, we could be serving our sentences, which range from ten to thirty days.

JUAN GONZALEZ: How did they differentiate those who were sent to jail versus those that got suspended sentences?

MATT DALOISIO: Some of the folks refused probation, and others refused to speak in their own defense in solidarity with those, again, in Guantanamo, who have no chance to speak in court. They also tried to single out who the leaders of the group were and tried to give them more time. There was clearly a tone in the court of wanting to discourage this from happening. It came out in the trial that the longest-serving police officer there was twenty-one years, and he had never seen a demonstration inside the Supreme Court. So it was clear that they wanted to make a point that they don't want these demonstrations in the Supreme Court.

AMY GOODMAN: In the sentencing phase, each of you spoke the name of the prisoner you represented, and you invited the prosecutor and judge to join you?

MATT DALOISIO: We had two folks—all of us represented ourselves, and we had two folks give closing statements, after which each one of us stood up individually and gave our name and the name of the prisoner we were there on behalf of. And it was a packed courtroom and a very emotional moment, at the end of which I asked the court to join us in a moment of silence for the prisoners in Guantanamo, over 200 of whom are still there. And everyone in the court stood, including the prosecutor, who stood to object. But to the judge's credit, he let the moment of silence stand. And it was another point in the trial where those men's names and their presence was with us.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the detainee you were representing?

MATT DALOISIO: I was representing a man named Yasser al-Zahrani, who was arrested at the age of seventeen, and at the age of twenty-two, on June 10, 2006, he apparently took his own life. So my sentencing statement was simply to read and spell his name into the record and point out that it possibly will be the last time it's ever entered into a US court.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt, were you one of the people who went to Cuba to try to call attention to Guantanamo, stopped from getting to the prison?

MATT DALOISIO: In 2005, Witness Against Torture formed as a trip to go try to visit the prisoners. And there were twenty-five of us who tried to go to the prison in Cuba.

AMY GOODMAN: I just want to say that on Saturday night at UC Davis in California, I talked to three prisoners by videoconference—we did it on a stage—who were in Sudan, ex-prisoners at Guantanamo. They said they were aware of the protest, and it was very moving to them inside.

 

Churches in all 50 states protest U.S. torture

Hundreds of churches located in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will display an anti-torture banner during the month of June to voice their opposition to U.S.-sponsored torture, announced a religious group on Thursday.

The "Banners Across America" initiative, organized by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, is taking place in conjunction with other interfaith public witnessing during Torture Awareness Month in June.

According to organizers, 298 congregations – including Jewish congregations, Buddhist temples, and Muslim mosques – have committed to displaying the large, black-and-white vinyl banners with the anti-torture messages: "Torture is Wrong" and "Torture is a Moral Issue," as of Thursday afternoon.

"We are thrilled that almost 300 congregations have made a significant and courageous witness in their community by displaying an anti-torture banner on the exterior of their building," said NRCAT executive director the Rev. Richard Killmer during a teleconference Thursday.

"In a public way these congregations are stating clearly that torture is always wrong – without any exceptions," he commented. "These powerful witnesses may hasten the day when we see the end of U.S.-sponsored torture."
 
 

DOJ official: Rumsfeld personally approved of brutal interrogations

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally authorized the use of brutal interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay despite warnings from the FBI that the methods amounted to inhumane treatment, was possibly illegal, and would not produce reliable intelligence, a Department of Justice inspector general testified Tuesday.

"The FBI believed that these techniques were not getting actionable information, that they were unsophisticated and unproductive," said Glenn Fine, the DOJ's inspector general, in testimony Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "They raised their concerns with the Department of Defense, but the Department of Defense, from what we were told, dismissed those concerns and that no changes were made in the Department of Defense's strategy."

Rumsfeld, who resigned immediately after the 2006-midterm elections, has vehemently denied that he approved of torture. The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel provided the Defense Department with legal guidelines that authorized techniques such as waterboarding, the use of military dogs, and "slaps" and concluded that as long as "organ failure" did not occur the methods could not be construed as torture.

Fine issued a 437-page report last month on the Bush administration's interrogation policies, which found that White House officials ignored FBI concerns about the treatment of detainees.

His testimony comes on the heels of a letter signed by 56 House Democrats that was sent to Attorney General Michael Mukasey last week Friday requesting that he appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether White House officials, including President Bush, violated the War Crimes Act when they allowed interrogators to use brutal interrogation methods against detainees suspected of ties to terrorist organizations.

[ ... ]

Dec. 20, 2005, Army Inspector General Report relating to the capture and interrogation of al-Qahtani included a sworn statement by Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt. It said Secretary Rumsfeld was “personally involved” in the interrogation of al-Qahtani and spoke “weekly” with Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander at Guantanamo, about the status of the interrogations between late 2002 and early 2003.

Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, an attorney with CCR, said in a sworn declaration that his client, imprisoned at Guantanamo, was subjected to months of torture based on verbal and written authorizations from Rumsfeld.

“At Guantánamo, Mr. al-Qahtani was subjected to a regime of aggressive interrogation techniques, known as the ‘First Special Interrogation Plan,’ that were authorized by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld,” Gutierrez said.

“Those techniques were implemented under the supervision and guidance of Secretary Rumsfeld and the commander of Guantánamo, Major General Geoffrey Miller. These methods included, but were not limited to, 48 days of severe sleep deprivation and 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, physical force, prolonged stress positions and prolonged sensory over-stimulation, and threats with military dogs.”

According to the Schlesinger report, orders signed by Bush and Rumsfeld in 2002 and 2003 authorizing brutal interrogations “became policy” at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

Bartering grows as economy stalls

Often called the secondary economy, bartering empties inventories when customers are cash-strapped. It also provides services without using much cash.

Thousands of Chicago-area small and midsized businesses already barter, and evidence suggests these tight economic times attract even more barter activity.

"What's unfortunate for the economy is good for us," said Steven White, chief executive officer of barter exchange ITEX. "As we get into this (economic) headwind, businesses want to cut back on expenses."

With its local headquarters in Oakbrook Terrace, ITEX reported June 3 that its first-quarter revenue rose 19 percent.

The industry, dominated by small regional exchanges, is expected to grow 3 percent to 4 percent this year.

At the same time, mainstream economists believe the gross domestic product will be flat or slightly down.

ITEX and rival IMS are the two largest barter exchanges, both nationally and locally, with more than 5,000 Chicago-area members.

New Berlin, Wis.-based IMS has 18,000 members nationally.

Bartering is particularly popular with hotels, retailers, printers, restaurants and service-oriented jobs such as doctors, lawyers and contractors.

Exchanges cater to small and midsized businesses, which trade by using their markups - the bottom-line cost plus a profit.

Different businesses operate at different profit margins. Ala Carte, which operates numerous brand restaurants including Famous Freddie's Roadhouse and the Alumni Club, trades meals and drinks for advertising and computers. Ala Carte's profit margins range from 20 percent to 40 percent, according to Comptroller John McKendrick.

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Cashless transactions

What brings the concept into the modern age, says Nick Barac from BBX's Melbourne office, is the fact that BBX successfully listed on the ASX in August 2005, to become the only publicly listed barter exchange manager in the world (listed on a main board). With more than 6000 member businesses in Australia and New Zealand, the global BBX membership runs to more than 300,000.

"It is a membership-based trading program whose primary role is to generate new business for all types of businesses and to show business owners how to offset many current cash expenses by utilising the downtime or idle inventory in their business," says Barac.

The company also offers mortgage broking, including leasing, business finance and general loans in both cash and trade dollars, as well as financial planning through their latest initiative, BBX Financial Advisors, insurance services through BBX Insurance and property services through BBX Real Estate.

The trade exchange uses its own currency (BBX dollars), which has the same value as Australian currency, to assign value to the transactions that take place between member businesses. In essence, the exchange acts as the third-party record keeper, similar to a bank - providing a sophisticated bartering market where thousands of "cashless" transactions take place - and a growing number of local businesses are seeing the benefits.

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Blackwater's private CIA

What could prove to be one of Blackwater's most profitable and enduring enterprises is one of the company's most secretive initiatives -- a move into the world of privatized intelligence services. In April 2006, Prince quietly began building Total Intelligence Solutions, which boasts that it "brings CIA-style" services to the open market for Fortune 500 companies. Among its offerings are "surveillance and countersurveillance, deployed intelligence collection, and rapid safeguarding of employees or other key assets."

As the United States finds itself in the midst of the most radical privatization agenda in its history, few areas have seen as dramatic a transformation to privatized services as the world of intelligence. "This is the magnet now. Everything is being attracted to these private companies in terms of individuals and expertise and functions that were normally done by the intelligence community," says former CIA division chief and senior analyst Melvin Goodman. "My major concern is the lack of accountability, the lack of responsibility. The entire industry is essentially out of control. It's outrageous."

Last year R.J. Hillhouse, a blogger who investigates the clandestine world of private contractors and US intelligence, obtained documents from the office of the Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) showing that Washington spends some $42 billion annually on private intelligence contractors, up from $17.5 billion in 2000. That means 70 percent of the US intelligence budget is going to private companies. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that the head of DNI is Mike McConnell, the former chair of the board of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the private intelligence industry's trade association.

Total Intelligence, which opened for business in February 2007, is a fusion of three entities bought up by Prince: the Terrorism Research Center, Technical Defense and The Black Group -- Blackwater vice chair Cofer Black's consulting agency. The company's leadership reads like a Who's Who of the CIA's "war on terror" operations after 9/11. In addition to the twenty-eight-year CIA veteran Black, who is chair of Total Intelligence, the company's executives include CEO Robert Richer, the former associate deputy director of the agency's Directorate of Operations and the second-ranking official in charge of clandestine operations. From 1999 to 2004, Richer was head of the CIA's Near East and South Asia Division, where he ran clandestine operations throughout the Middle East and South Asia. As part of his duties, he was the CIA liaison with Jordan's King Abdullah, a key US ally and Blackwater client, and briefed George W. Bush on the burgeoning Iraqi resistance in its early stages.

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Pakistan attacks US for 'cowardly' killing of soldiers

Relations between Washington and the new government in Islamabad have been dealt a severe blow after Pakistan angrily denounced the "unprovoked and cowardly" killing of 11 soldiers in a US air strike near the Afghan border.

The attack, which took place in the volatile tribal areas and is believed to have been carried out by a pilotless drone, is likely to sour ties between the Pakistani and American military and deepen public resentment of Pakistan's role in the so-called war on terror.

In its most vocal protest yet, Pakistan's military said the strike in Mohmand, which killed members of a paramilitary border force "had hit at the very basis of co-operation" in the fight against terrorism. It said it reserved "the right to protect our citizens and soldiers against aggression".

Yousaf Raza Gillani, the recently elected prime minister who leads a fragile coalition government, told Pakistan's parliament: "We will take a stand for sovereignty, integrity and self-respect, and we will not allow our soil [to be attacked]."

The government has been pursuing peace deals with tribal leaders and militants on the border and in the Swat valley, a move that has upset Kabul and Nato commanders in Afghanistan, who say it will lead to a surge in cross-border attacks.

While it is widely believed that previous US air strikes have killed Pakistani civilians, and possibly troops, only for responsibility to be taken by the Pakistanis themselves for political reasons, yesterday's condemnation by Islamabad broke new ground.

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35 articles of impeachment against Bush on the record

From: Freep.com
 
The House voted Wednesday to send articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush to the Judiciary Committee, which isn't likely to hold hearings before the end of his term.
 
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who ran for president this year, spent more than four hours Monday night reading his 35 articles of impeachment into the record.

Among the charges: Bush manufactured a false case for going to war against Iraq, failed to provide troops with vehicle armor, illegally detained both foreign nationals and Americans, condones torture, mishandled the response to Hurricane Katrina and undermined efforts to address global warning.

"It is imperative that members of Congress have a thorough opportunity to read the articles of impeachment and study the documentation," Kucinich said in a statement.

The Judiciary Committee is chaired by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., who once vowed to hold impeachment hearings.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi long ago declared the prospects for impeachment proceedings "off the table."

Conyers wouldn't comment Wednesday on the articles' prospects. But impeachment articles against Vice President Dick Cheney -- also entered by Kucinich -- were sent to Conyers' committee in November; there's no evidence they'll be considered before the Bush administration leaves office in January.

On Wednesday, Republicans -- seeing a chance to force Democrats into debate -- voted to bring up the resolution.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that the Democratic-led Congress was holding the Bush administration accountable and questioned spending time on impeachment in the "waning months of this administration's tenure."

 

Articles of Impeachment for President George W Bush by Dennis Kucinich

Introduced in Congress June 9, 2008. More details here.

Resolved, that President George W. Bush be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate:

Articles of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives of the United States of America in the name of itself and of the people of the United States of America, in maintenance and support of its impeachment against President George W. Bush for high crimes and misdemeanors.

In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has committed the following abuses of power.

  1. Article I - Creating a Secret Propaganda Campaign to Manufacture a False Case for War Against Iraq.
  2. Article II - Falsely, Systematically, and with Criminal Intent Conflating the Attacks of September 11, 2001, With Misrepresentation of Iraq as a Security Threat as Part of Fraudulent Justification for a War of Aggression.
  3. Article III - Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction, to Manufacture a False Case for War.
  4. Article IV - Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Posed an Imminent Threat to the United States.
  5. Article V - Illegally Misspending Funds to Secretly Begin a War of Aggression.
  6. Article VI - Invading Iraq in Violation of the Requirements of HJRes114.
  7. Article VII - Invading Iraq Absent a Declaration of War.
  8. Article VIII - Invading Iraq, A Sovereign Nation, in Violation of the UN Charter.
  9. Article IX - Failing to Provide Troops With Body Armor and Vehicle Armor
  10. Article X - Falsifying Accounts of US Troop Deaths and Injuries for Political Purposes
  11. Article XI - Establishment of Permanent U.S. Military Bases in Iraq
  12. Article XII - Initiating a War Against Iraq for Control of That Nation's Natural Resources
  13. Article XIII - Creating a Secret Task Force to Develop Energy and Military Policies With Respect to Iraq and Other Countries
  14. Article XIV - Misprision of a Felony, Misuse and Exposure of Classified Information And Obstruction of Justice in the Matter of Valerie Plame Wilson, Clandestine Agent of the Central Intelligence Agency
  15. Article XV - Providing Immunity from Prosecution for Criminal Contractors in Iraq
  16. Article XVI - Reckless Misspending and Waste of U.S. Tax Dollars in Connection With Iraq and US Contractors
  17. Article XVII - Illegal Detention: Detaining Indefinitely And Without Charge Persons Both U.S. Citizens and Foreign Captives
  18. Article XVIII - Torture: Secretly Authorizing, and Encouraging the Use of Torture Against Captives in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Other Places, as a Matter of Official Policy
  19. Article XIX - Rendition: Kidnapping People and Taking Them Against Their Will to 'Black Sites' Located in Other Nations, Including Nations Known to Practice Torture
  20. Article XX - Imprisoning Children
  21. Article XXI - Misleading Congress and the American People About Threats from Iran, and Supporting Terrorist Organizations Within Iran, With the Goal of Overthrowing the Iranian Government
  22. Article XXII - Creating Secret Laws
  23. Article XXIII - Violation of the Posse Comitatus Act
  24. Article XXIV - Spying on American Citizens, Without a Court-Ordered Warrant, in Violation of the Law and the Fourth Amendment
  25. Article XXV - Directing Telecommunications Companies to Create an Illegal and Unconstitutional Database of the Private Telephone Numbers and Emails of American Citizens
  26. Article XXVI - Announcing the Intent to Violate Laws with Signing Statements
  27. Article XXVII - Failing to Comply with Congressional Subpoenas and Instructing Former Employees Not to Comply
  28. Article XXVIII - Tampering with Free and Fair Elections, Corruption of the Administration of Justice
  29. Article XXIX - Conspiracy to Violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965
  30. Article XXX - Misleading Congress and the American People in an Attempt to Destroy Medicare
  31. Article XXXI - Katrina: Failure to Plan for the Predicted Disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Failure to Respond to a Civil Emergency
  32. Article XXXII - Misleading Congress and the American People, Systematically Undermining Efforts to Address Global Climate Change
  33. Article XXXIII - Repeatedly Ignored and Failed to Respond to High Level Intelligence Warnings of Planned Terrorist Attacks in the US, Prior to 911.
  34. Article XXXIV - Obstruction of the Investigation into the Attacks of September 11, 2001
  35. Article XXXV - Endangering the Health of 911 First Responders

"Boy, it's really nice to have these drugs so we can keep people deployed."

At a Pentagon that keeps statistics on just about everything, there is no central clearinghouse for this kind of data, and the Army hasn't consistently asked about prescription-drug use, which makes it difficult to track. Given the traditional stigma associated with soldiers seeking mental help, the survey, released in March, probably underestimates antidepressant use. But if the Army numbers reflect those of other services — the Army has by far the most troops deployed to the war zones — about 20,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were on such medications last fall. The Army estimates that authorized drug use splits roughly fifty-fifty between troops taking antidepressants — largely the class of drugs that includes Prozac and Zoloft — and those taking prescription sleeping pills like Ambien.

In some ways, the prescriptions may seem unremarkable. Generals, history shows, have plied their troops with medicinal palliatives at least since George Washington ordered rum rations at Valley Forge. During World War II, the Nazis fueled their blitzkrieg into France and Poland with the help of an amphetamine known as Pervitin. The U.S. Army also used amphetamines during the Vietnam War.

The military's rising use of antidepressants also reflects their prevalence in the civilian population. In 2004, the last year for which complete data for the U.S. are available, doctors wrote 147 million prescriptions for antidepressants, according to IMS Health, a pharmaceutical-market-research firm. This number reflects in part the common practice of cycling through different medications to find the most effective drug. A 2006 federally funded study found that 70% of those taking antidepressants along with therapy experience some improvement in mood.

When it comes to fighting wars, though, troops have historically been barred from using such drugs in combat. And soldiers — who are younger and healthier on average than the general population — have been prescreened for mental illnesses before enlisting.

The increase in the use of medication among U.S. troops suggests the heavy mental and psychological price being paid by soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pentagon surveys show that while all soldiers deployed to a war zone will feel stressed, 70% will manage to bounce back to normalcy. But about 20% will suffer from what the military calls "temporary stress injuries," and 10% will be afflicted with "stress illnesses." Such ailments, according to briefings commanders get before deploying, begin with mild anxiety and irritability, difficulty sleeping, and growing feelings of apathy and pessimism. As the condition worsens, the feelings last longer and can come to include panic, rage, uncontrolled shaking and temporary paralysis. The symptoms often continue back home, playing a key role in broken marriages, suicides and psychiatric breakdowns. The mental trauma has become so common that the Pentagon may expand the list of "qualifying wounds" for a Purple Heart — historically limited to those physically injured on the battlefield — to include posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on May 2 that it's "clearly something" that needs to be considered, and the Pentagon is weighing the change.

Using drugs to cope with battlefield traumas is not discussed much outside the Army, but inside the service it has been the subject of debate for years. "No magic pill can erase the image of a best friend's shattered body or assuage the guilt from having traded duty with him that day," says Combat Stress Injury, a 2006 medical book edited by Charles Figley and William Nash that details how troops can be helped by such drugs. "Medication can, however, alleviate some debilitating and nearly intolerable symptoms of combat and operational stress injuries" and "help restore personnel to full functioning capacity."

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Brain's gray cells appear to be changed by trauma of major events like 9/11 attack, study suggests

Healthy adults who were close to the World Trade Center during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, have less gray matter in key emotion centers of their brains compared with people who were more than 200 miles away, finds a new Cornell study.

"This suggests that really bad experiences may have lasting effects on the brain, even in healthy people," said Barbara Ganzel, the study's lead researcher and postdoctoral fellow at Cornell's College of Human Ecology.

The study -- one of the first to look at the effects of trauma on the brains of healthy adults -- is published in the April issue of Neurolmage. It follows a Cornell study by the same authors that found people living near the World Trade Center on 9/11 have brains that are more reactive to such emotional stimuli as photographs of fearful faces. Combined, the two studies provide an emerging picture of what happens in the brains of healthy people who experience a traumatic event.

The smaller volume of gray matter -- composed largely of cells and capillary blood vessels -- that Ganzel found were in areas that process emotion and may be, Ganzel suggests, the brain's normal response to trauma. The subjects in the study did not suffer from any mental or physical health disorders. Gray matter, a major component of the nervous system, is composed of the neuron cell bodies that process information in the brain.

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U.S. farmers turning to mule power to fight rising oil prices

farming with mulesImage: Flickr Mountain Mike

Rural areas in the U.S. are now feeling the profound effects of mounting gas prices, more so than in other parts of the country, due to the combination of lower incomes and heavier dependence on farming equipment, tractors, pickup trucks and vans. In addition to other trends (gasoline theft, buying less meat, switching jobs for a shorter commute), the dilemma has led some farmers to turn to less energy-intensive forms of tilling land – or in a word, mules.

According to a recent survey by the Oil Price Information Service, Americans typically spend 4 percent of their after-tax income on gasoline. In rural areas however, such as the counties in the Mississippi Delta, families may spend up to 13 percent on fuel. It is a disparity that may not be so apparent in the Northeastern states, where families generally earn more, drive shorter distances or have better access to public transportation.

Benefits of Mule Power
But with gas approaching $4 a gallon, T.R. and Danny Raymond, two farmers on a 40-acre farm in McMinnville, Tennessee, have now switched over by modifying their equipment to shift the weight equally between two mules. Though training the animals to pull the equipment is initially time-consuming, the substitution has meant that the Raymonds save $60 a day on fuel.

"They just eat hay and a little sweet feed, a little shell corn," T.R. Raymond says of his mules. "You gotta rub around on them and talk to them, stay acquainted with them, where they know you."

Of course, the Raymonds are not the only ones now falling back on good, old resourcefulness. "There's a lot of mule power around here," says T.R. Raymond. "When you get to where you can't afford the gas, you hook the mules up."

::NPR (with audio interview)

~ Source: Treehugger ~

 

The current state of drug policy debate

Trends in the last decade in the European Union and United Nations
 
I. Initial considerations

Drug control originates from a desire to protect human well-being. The international community, concerned about the impact of drugs on public health, began to prohibit a series of substances and establish measures to eliminate their production, distribution and consumption. The initial phrase of the first UN treaty on drug control, 1961, speaks of a concern for the health and welfare of mankind. Since then, the illegal drug economy has grown at an exponential rate, achieving a certain market stability around the beginning of the nineteen nineties. The strategy to combat drugs led to a large-scale war, with extreme actions such as military operations against small farmers of illegal plants, chemical fumigation of illegal drug crops, wholesale imprisonment of users and small distributors, and even the death penalty for those who break the law relating to drugs in some countries. The prohibition of illegal drugs places the markets of this lucrative trade in the hands of criminal organizations, and creates enormous illegal funds which stimulate armed conflicts throughout the world.

This document offers an overview of the current trends in the search for possible alternative policies, particularly in the scope of the European Union and the United Nations. When speaking of alternative policies, it is easy to fall into the trap of over-simplifying the difference between prohibition and legalization. However, thinking in terms of this dichotomy is of little use when searching for strategies for change. At an abstract level, in the conceptual debate, bringing to the discussion the concept of legalization might be useful for questioning the current system. But legalization is not necessarily the answer, or the solution, for all the problems related to the existence of the illegal drugs economy. Just as extremely repressive methods used to control drugs can have harmful effects, so the absence of certain control measures can also have a negative effect on public health.

In terms of measures to control psychoactive substances, there is currently a wide diversity worldwide, and also vast differences in the administrative and criminal sanctions applied in each country. The UN conventions establish global norms in this respect: The Single Convention of 1961, with its lists of narcotics, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances; 1971, the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988, with its lists of precursors; and more recently, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, 2003. The norms established by the United Nations have little logic, and have been shown to be full of inconsistencies from the very outset.

Instead of reducing the debate to the dichotomy mentioned above, it would be more useful to take as an image, a scheme which represents a continuum of different models and forms of control, and which can be divided under four main headings:

I

II

III

IV

War on drugs

UN Treaties to prohibit drugs

Regulation of legal substances

Free trade

Characteristics

- Extreme repression
- Militarization

- Worldwide norms
- Prohibition based on zero tolerance
- Medical prescription

- Administrative controls
- Big differences between countries

Use and distribution without international control

Examples of practices

- Fumigation
- Mass imprisonment
- Death penalty

- Penal sanctions for possession, trafficking - System of licenses for legal uses

- Licenses for production and sale, restriction for minors, etc.
- Tobacco: WHO convention on control

- Control of mushrooms, khat and ephedrine in various countries.
- Alkaloids of some treaties

Substances

Coca/cocaine
Opium/Heroin
Cannabis, ATS

More than 200 substances on the lists of the 1961 and 1971 Treaties

Alcohol, Tobacco

Coffee, khat, kava, ephedrine, mushrooms hallucinogens, etc.

The UN Treaties on drug control, which form the backbone of the prohibition regime, are just part of the problem in relation to the damage that is generated by some of their articles. There is not a single article in the conventions, for example, which obliges the signatory nations to imprison drug users or fumigate fields of illegal crops with herbicides. These control measures are carried out outside the norms established by the UN. Thus, as certain Islamic countries have decided to maintain the prohibition of alcohol and give criminal sanction to its consumption outside the worldwide norms, a large part of the true anti-drug war which falls under the first heading of the scheme is carried out at the margins of the established norms.

~ read on... ~

 

'Need for a new social alliance' - Interview with Susan George

 
A global alliance of human rights activists, environmentalists and ethically run small enterprises is needed to save the planet from self-destruction, says Susan George, chair of the Board of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. The institute works "to contribute to social justice."

Susan George, author of several books on development, now focuses on neo-liberal globalisation mirrored in the World Trade Organisation talks, international financial institutions and in North-South relations.

"Even if committed to the social and environmental challenges, none of these groups individually will be able to save our future, which is dominated by powerful economic forces that have a short-term view and, if allowed, will continue exploiting and destroying the planet," George says.

We must recognise, she says, that change does not happen at an individual level. "Yes, I can change my light bulbs or reduce my carbon footprint, but we need a radical revolution that cannot be achieved individually."

IPS Italy correspondent Sabina Zaccaro spoke with Susan George at Terra Futura, an exhibition of 'good practices' in social, economic and environmental sustainability held yearly in Florence. In its fifth year, Terra Futura was dedicated to strengthening social alliances -- and trying some audacious ones such as alliances among private citizens and financial institutions.

IPS: Will the political-economic system really allow these alliances to happen?

Susan George: The market ideology works to separate people, it is a model that separates people on a competition basis. Social contact is the only response to economy that works all the time to prevent this.

People do not have to abandon their own field and commitment, but become used to working together. We are free agents, and if we understand that there's an interest, that the vast majority of people can often no longer see where their interests lie -- and that is part of the political fight that we have -- then it is possible.

If you show to people that they have an interest in alliances, and this is true for farmers, trade unionists, small medium enterprises…then yes, I think it possible to make those alliances.

IPS: And who sets the rules?

SG: It is hard to get binding rules, it could be easier at the level of the regions. In many places this is not possible because of corruption, or because the will of the government is to prevent this kind of thing and allow transnational corporations to do whatever they like. I would say that that's what the European Commission is there for -- to allow finance capitals and transnational capitals to operate as freely as possible.

IPS: Can the ethical argument alone convince business?

SG: No, not at all. They say how green they are, how caring they are, but it's rubbish to believe it...Corporations and transnational organisations preach self-green regulation; 'we will bring the proper solution', they say, but it is totally illusive.

IPS: So, what can be a convincing argument?

SG: The right arguments are the arguments of force you cannot argue with, you don't discuss; you don't say 'please'. When you are in a position where you are able to dictate.

IPS: How?

SG: Well, through alliances! At a much larger scale, at a big scale...the problem is scale. Alliances must be as broad as possible. Economic power is way ahead of us, so to me the problem is, can we go fast enough, become important enough in order to put a stop to that, to escape the current impasse.

IPS: Does politics have a role in that?

SG: If it would be just politics, I would not be that worried, since things due over centuries sort themselves out; but with the environment we don't have that kind of time. I don't say it often in public, because I don't want people be in despair, but I am often in despair.

IPS: Are you totally pessimistic?

SG: I am hopeful; the only thing you can work on is hope. Generally, politicians are the last to move, but we need to make alliance with them.

When politicians have an interest in something, they show that they are able to listen. Look at what happens with prices...and scarcity. Politicians and business do listen to that, they listen to the price of oil -- they bring the wrong solutions, but they listen to price signals.

IPS: Can oil be replaced with agro-fuels?

SG: It's criminal. There's a lot of talk about using plants that are bio -- but any plant is bio. I've just read that some of the species they're intending to use are invasive species, they take over, and then will spread all over and take all the water out of the ground, and so on.

So, it's always the same thing -- you cannot have just a techno solution because there's the entire environment that you have to consider. I am not an agronomist, but I would refuse any introduction, any crop until the impact of that crop on the rest of the environment has been studied. You cannot just say 'Ok, this is good, we will harvest it, and we will do ethanol out of it', because you don't know.

That's also what's wrong with GMO (genetically modified organisms) seeds. They only look at the plant and what that plant is supposed to do, to repulse insects or whatever, but they don't look at the whole of the environment, it's not their task.

Scientists are perfectly able to make a plant that can repulse insects, but they have no knowledge at all of how the birds, the butterflies, the worms, the bacteria, will react.


Susan George is a Fellow and Chair of the Board of the Transnational Institute. Her latest books are La Pensée enchaînée: Comment les droites laïque et religieuse se sont emparées de l'Amérique [Fayard, 2007], to be published in English as: Hijacking America: How the Religious and Secular Right Changed What Americans Think [Forthcoming, Polity Press 2008], and We the peoples of Europe [Pluto Press, 2008].
 

'The wider plan to kill the traditional Internet and replace it with a regulated and controlled Internet 2'

What is documented, as the story underscores, is the fact that TELUS' wireless web package allows only restricted pay-per-view access to a selection of corporate and news websites. This is the model that the post-2012 Internet would be based on.

People have noted that the authors of the video seem to be more concerned about getting people to subscribe to their You Tube account than fighting for net neutrality by prominently featuring an attractive woman who isn't shy about showing her cleavage. The vast majority of the other You Tube videos hosted on the same account consist of bizarre avante-garde satire skits on behalf of the same people featured in the Internet freedom clip. This has prompted many to suspect that the Internet story is merely a stunt to draw attention to the group.

Whether the report is accurate or merely a crude hoax, there is a very real agenda to restrict, regulate and suffocate the free use of the Internet and we have been documenting its progression for years.

The first steps in a move to charge for every e mail sent have already been taken. Under the pretext of eliminating spam, Bill Gates and other industry chieftains have proposed Internet users buy credit stamps which denote how many e mails they will be able to send. This of course is the death knell for political newsletters and mailing lists.

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'Looking for new realms to bomb, it launched itself into cyberspace'

Tomgram: William Astore, Militarizing Your Cyberspace

Be depressed. Be very depressed. You thought that cyberspace -- a term conjured up long ago by that neuromancer, sci-fi author William Gibson -- was the last frontier of freedom. Well, think again. If the U.S. Air Force has anything to say about it, cyber-freedom will, in the not so distant future, be just another word for domination.

Air Force officials, despite a year-long air surge in Iraq, undoubtedly worry that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates's "next wars" (two, three, many Afghanistans) won't have much room for air glory. Recently, looking for new realms to bomb, it launched itself into cyberspace. The Air Force has now set up its own Cyber Command, redefined the Internet as just more "air space" fit for "cyber-craft," and launched its own Bush-style preemptive strike on the other military services for budgetary control of the same.

If that's not enough for you, it's now proposing a massive $30 billion cyberspace boondoggle, as retired Air Force Lt. Col. William Astore writes below, that will, theoretically, provide the Air Force with the ability to fry any computer on Earth. And don't think the other services are likely to take this lying down. Expect cyberwar in the Pentagon before this is all over. In the meantime, think of cyberspace, in military terms, as a new realm for nuclear-style strategy, with its own developing version of "first-strike capability," its own future versions of "mutually assured destruction," its own "windows of vulnerability" to be closed (while exploiting those of the enemy), and undoubtedly its own "cyber-gaps."

In fact, it looks like the national-security version of cyberspace may soon be a very, very busy place. Noah Shachtman, who covers the subject like a rug at his Wired Magazine Danger Room blog, recently noted that Comcast, the country's second-largest Internet provider, "has just advertised for an engineer to handle 'reconnaissance' and 'analysis' of 'subscriber intelligence' for the company's 'National Security Operations'" -- that is, for the U.S. government. ("Day-to-day tasks, the company says in an online job listing, will include 'deploy[ing], installing] and remov[ing] strategic and tactical data intercept equipment on a nationwide basis to meet Comcast and Government lawful intercept needs.'") Ain't that sweet.

And it shouldn't be too tough a job. As Shachtman also points out, "Since May 2007, all Internet providers have been required to install gear for easy wiretapping under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act."

Sigh. Those who don't learn from history are bound to… get ever more bloated budgets. Tom

Attention Geeks and Hackers

Uncle Sam's Cyber Force Wants You!
By William J. Astore

Recently, while I was on a visit to Salon.com, my computer screen momentarily went black. A glitch? A power surge? No, it was a pop-up ad for the U.S. Air Force, warning me that an enemy cyber-attack could come at any moment -- with dire consequences for my ability to connect to the Internet. It was an Outer Limits moment. Remember that eerie sci-fi show from the early 1960s? The one that began in a blur with the message, "There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission…." It felt a little like that.

And speaking of Air Force ads, there's one currently running on TV and on the Internet that starts with a bird's eye view of the Pentagon as a narrator intones, "This building will be attacked three million times today. Who's going to protect it?" Two Army colleagues of mine nearly died on September 11, 2001, when the third hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon, so I can't say I appreciated the none-too-subtle reminder of that day's carnage. Leaving that aside, it turns out that the ad is referring to cyber-attacks and that the cyber protector it has in mind is a new breed of "air" warrior, part of an entirely new Cyber Command run by the Air Force. Using the latest technology, our cyber elite will "shoot down" enemy hackers and saboteurs, both foreign and domestic, thereby dominating the realm of cyberspace, just as the Air Force is currently seeking to dominate the planet's air space -- and then space itself "to the shining stars and beyond."

Part of the Air Force's new "above all" vision of full-spectrum dominance, America's emerging cyber force has control fantasies that would impress George Orwell. Working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Department of Homeland Security, and other governmental agencies, the Air Force's stated goal is to gain access to, and control over, any and all networked computers, anywhere on Earth, at a proposed cost to you, the American taxpayer, of $30 billion over the first five years.

Here, the Air Force is advancing the now familiar Bush-era idea that the only effective defense is a dominating offense. According to Lani Kass, previously the head of the Air Force's Cyberspace Task Force and now a special assistant to the Air Force Chief of Staff, "If you're defending in cyber [space], you're already too late. Cyber delivers on the original promise of air power. If you don't dominate in cyber, you cannot dominate in other domains."

Such logic is commonplace in today's Air Force (as it has been for Bush administration foreign policy). A threat is identified, our vulnerability to it is trumpeted, and then our response is to spend tens of billions of dollars launching a quest for total domination. Thus, on May 12th of this year, the Air Force Research Laboratory posted an official "request for proposal" seeking contractor bids to begin the push to achieve "dominant cyber offensive engagement." The desired capabilities constitute a disturbing militarization of cyberspace:

"Of interest are any and all techniques to enable user and/or root access to both fixed (PC) or mobile computing platforms. Robust methodologies to enable access to any and all operating systems, patch levels, applications and hardware…. [T]echnology… to maintain an active presence within the adversaries' information infrastructure completely undetected… [A]ny and all techniques to enable stealth and persistence capabilities… [C]apability to stealthily exfiltrate information from any remotely-located open or closed computer information systems…"

Stealthily infiltrating, stealing, and exfiltrating: Sounds like cyber-cat burglars, or perhaps invisible cyber-SEALS, as in that U.S. Navy "empty beach at night" commercial. This is consistent with an Air Force-sponsored concept paper on "network-centric warfare," which posits the deployment of so-called "cyber-craft" in cyberspace to "disable terminals, nodes or the entire network as well as send commands to 'fry' their hard drives." Somebody clever with acronyms came up with D5, an all-encompassing term that embraces the ability to deceive, deny, disrupt, degrade, and destroy an enemy's computer information systems.

No one, it seems, is the least bit worried that a single-minded pursuit of cyber-"destruction" -- analogous to that "crush… kill… destroy" android on the 1960s TV series "Lost in Space" -- could create a new arena for that old Cold War nuclear acronym MAD (mutually assured destruction), as America's enemies and rivals seek to D5 our terminals, nodes, and networks.

Here's another less-than-comforting thought: America's new Cyber Force will most likely be widely distributed in basing terms. In fact, the Air Force prefers a "headquarters" spread across several bases here in the U.S., thereby cleverly tapping the political support of more than a few members of Congress.

Finally, if, after all this talk of the need for "information dominance" and the five D's, you still remain skeptical, the Air Force has prepared an online "What Do You Think?" survey and quiz (paid for, again, by you, the taxpayer, of course) to silence naysayers and cyberspace appeasers. It will disabuse you of the notion that the Internet is a somewhat benign realm where cooperation of all sorts, including the international sort, is possible. You'll learn, instead, that we face nothing but ceaseless hostility from cyber-thugs seeking to terrorize all of us everywhere all the time.

Of Ugly Babies, Icebergs, and Air Force Computer Systems

Computers and their various networks are unquestionably vital to our national defense -- indeed, to our very way of life -- and we do need to be able to protect them from cyber attacks. In addition, striking at an enemy's ability to command and control its forces has always been part of warfare. But spending $6 billion a year for five years on a mini-Manhattan Project to atomize our opponents' computer networks is an escalatory boondoggle of the worst sort.

Leaving aside the striking potential for the abuse of privacy, or the potentially destabilizing responses of rivals to such aggressive online plans, the Air Force's militarization of cyberspace is likely to yield uncertain technical benefits at inflated prices, if my experience working on two big Air Force computer projects counts for anything. Admittedly, that experience is a bit dated, but keep in mind that the wheels of procurement reform at the Department of Defense (DoD) do turn slowly, when they turn at all.

Two decades ago, while I was at the Space Surveillance Center in Cheyenne Mountain, the Air Force awarded a contract to update our computer system. The new system, known as SPADOC 4, was, as one Air Force tester put it, the "ugly baby." Years later, and no prettier, the baby finally came on-line, part of a Cheyenne Mountain upgrade that was hundreds of millions of dollars over budget. One Air Force captain described it in the following way:

"The SPADOC system was… designed very poorly in terms of its human machine interface… [leading to] a lot of work arounds that make learning the system difficult… [Fortunately,] people are adaptable and they can learn to operate a poorly designed machine, like SPADOC, [but the result is] increased training time, increased stress for the operators, increased human errors under stress and unused machine capabilities."

My second experience came a decade ago, when I worked on the Air Force Mission Support System or AFMSS. The idea was to enable pilots to plan their missions using the latest tools of technology, rather than paper charts, rulers, and calculators. A sound idea, but again botched in execution.

The Air Force tried to design a mission planner for every platform and mission, from tankers to bombers. To meet such disparate needs took time, money, and massive computing power, so the Air Force went with Unix-based SPARC platforms, which occupied a small room. The software itself was difficult to learn, even counter-intuitive. While the Air Force struggled, year after year, to get AFMSS to work, competitors came along with PC-based flight planners, which provided 80% of AFMSS's functionality at a fraction of the cost. Naturally, pilots began clamoring for the portable, easy-to-learn PC system.

Fundamentally, the whole DoD procurement cycle had gone wrong -- and there lies a lesson for the present cyber-moment. The Pentagon is fairly good at producing decent ships, tanks, and planes (never mind the typical cost overruns, the gold-plating, and so on). After all, an advanced ship or tank, even deployed a few years late, is normally still an effective weapon. But a computer system a few years late? That's a paperweight or a doorstop. That's your basic disaster. Hence the push for the DoD to rely, whenever possible, on COTS, or commercial-off-the-shelf, software and hardware.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying it's only the Pentagon that has trouble designing, acquiring, and fielding new computer systems. Think of it as a problem of large, by-the-book bureaucracies. Just look at the FBI's computer debacle attempting (for years) to install new systems that failed disastrously, or for that matter the ever more imperial Microsoft's struggles with Vista.

Judging by my past experience with large-scale Air Force computer projects, that $30 billion will turn out to be just the tip of the cyber-war procurement iceberg and, while you're at it, call those "five years" of development 10. Shackled to a multi-year procurement cycle of great regulatory rigidity and complexity, the Air Force is likely to struggle but fail to keep up with the far more flexible and creative cyber world, which almost daily sees the fielding of new machines and applications.

Loving Big "Cyber" Brother

Our military is the ultimate centralized, bureaucratic, hierarchical organization. Its tolerance for errors and risky or "deviant" behavior is low. Its culture is designed to foster obedience, loyalty, regularity, and predictability, all usually necessary in handling frantic life-or-death combat situations. It is difficult to imagine a culture more antithetical to the world of computer developers, programmers, and hackers.

So expect a culture clash in militarized cyberspace -- and more taxpayers' money wasted -- as the Internet and the civilian computing world continue to outpace anything the DoD can muster. If, however, the Air Force should somehow manage to defy the odds and succeed, the future might be even scarier.

After all, do we really want the military to dominate cyberspace? Let's say we answer "yes" because we love our big "Above All" cyber brother. Now, imagine you're Chinese or Indian or Russian. Would you really cede total cyber dominance to the United States without a fight? Not likely. You would simply launch -- or intensify -- your own cyber war efforts.

Interestingly, a few people have surmised that the Air Force's cyber war plans are so outlandish they must be bluster -- a sort of warning shot to competitors not to dare risk a cyber attack on the U.S., because they'd then face cyber obliteration.

Yet it's more likely that the Air Force is quite sincere in promoting its $30 billion "mini-Manhattan" cyber-war project. It has its own private reasons for attempting to expand into a new realm (and so create new budget authority as well). After all, as a service, it's been somewhat marginalized in the War on Terror. Today's Air Force is in a flat spin, its new planes so expensive that relatively few can be purchased, its pilots increasingly diverted to "fly" Predators and Reapers -- unmanned aerial vehicles -- its top command eager to ward off the threat of future irrelevancy.

But even in cyberspace, irrelevancy may prove the name of the game. Judging by the results of previous U.S. military-run computer projects, future Air Force "cyber-craft" may prove more than a day late and billions of dollars short.

William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), has taught at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School. He currently teaches at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. A regular contributor to Tomdispatch, he is the author of Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism (Potomac, 2005). His email is wastore@pct.edu.

Copyright 2008 William J. Astore

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