Friday, February 26, 2010

Wall Street bonuses top $20bn

Despite calls for restraint in multi-million dollar pay packages, Wall Street bonuses jumped by 17% to $20.3bn (£13bn) for 2009 as America's financial services industry rebounded swiftly from the credit crunch to healthy profitability, according to New York's tax department.

New York state's comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, said the average taxable bonus on Wall Street was $123,850, a figure he described as a "bitter pill" for many people still struggling with record unemployment and ongoing economic weakness on the high street.

Bonuses at banks, fund management firms and stockbrokers are a crucial element in New York's income tax revenue and the state keeps a careful tally of each year's projected payout on Wall Street.

DiNapoli said the total bonus pool was down by about a third on 2007, when the financial crisis had yet to wreak unprecedented havoc on the markets. But he said Wall Street was on track to make an aggregate profit of as much as $55bn for 2009, a remarkable recovery after a $43bn loss in 2008.

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Health scandal of the decade -- Monsanto’s GMO perversion of food

In the 2010 growing season Monsanto plans to unleash its latest Frankenfood experiment on the American and Canadian public, a new version of genetically mutated corn with eight abnormal gene traits called Genuity SmartStax corn.  It is the culmination of an astonishing scandal that has been steadily building over the past decade.  During this time Monsanto's mutated seeds have grown to 90% of the U.S. soy crop and 85% of the corn crop – and wheat is next on their agenda.  Their efforts have been marked by corporate bullying and have drawn the attention of the Justice Department who is conducting an antitrust investigation.  All the while they have been spending millions on lobbying to fast track their agenda before the American public even realizes what hit them.  Europeans are livid about the lack of safety testing for this newest Monsanto experiment.  Monsanto is making an ominous power play to corner the worldwide market on food and seeds.  In the process they are adversely altering the very nature of food itself.

Few people would eat Monsanto's “food” if they understood what it was or knew that they were eating it.  President Obama and his family won't eat it.  Neither did the Bush family.  Even a Monsanto employee cafeteria rejects it.  This is no laughing matter.  Your health and the health of your children and grandchildren are at stake.  It seems more like a scene from a horror flick than something happening in modern day America.  Imagine your digestive tract turned into a Roundup herbicide factory and other warped genetic signals slowly and progressively rotting away your health.  Unlike acute food poisoning from infectious E.coli, it is a slow and insidious poisoning.

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Transcending Tribal Mentality by Caroline Myss

All of us are born into a “tribal mentality” of various forms. These include our family unit, religious background, country of origin, ethnicity, etc. The tribal mentality effectively indoctrinates an individual into the tribe's beliefs, ensuring that all believe the same. The structure of reality – what is and is not possible for the members of the group – is thus agreed upon and maintained by the tribe.

While the tribal mentality has definite benefits in terms of establishing common ground and ensuring group survival, it is not a conscious agreement. We are born into it. Yet at a certain stage, both personally and collectively, the tribal mentality must be challenged. People can then begin to recognize the need for a personal honor code independent of the tribe. If humanity is to progress, we need to learn how to treat everyone – regardless of tribal affiliation – with honor and respect.

Every one of us is plugged into the tribal mind. We support tribal belief patterns by directing a percentage of our life force into maintaining our affiliation with the tribe. This involves an implicit agreement to think like the tribe thinks, to evaluate situations and people the way the tribe does, and to believe in right and wrong according to tribal values and ambitions. As long as the tribal mentality within us remains unexamined, we unwittingly subject others to our tribal laws.

When we are plugged into tribal thought forms, we can easily believe in nonsensical prejudices held by the tribe. Tribal mentality allows us to hold harsh, judgmental positions or attitudes about an entire group of people: “All fat people are lazy,” or “all Irish are drunks,” or "all Muslims are terrorists" for example.

A rigid tribal thought form may have little truth to it, but individuals hold to such beliefs because that perspective is what the tribe has agreed to believe. Innocent children, born into the hatred and prejudice of their parents and ancestors, grow up inside a tribal mentality that sponsors an endless march toward war against the tribe's perceived enemies. People grow up hating other people – people they have never seen – based on group affiliation. This is the shadow side of the tribe.

Inevitably, some among us come to a point where we want to break out of the inflexible tribal mentality. At some point, these individuals want to explore, develop, and manage their own consciousness without the judgments and limitations of the tribal mind.

It is easy to spot these mavericks when they start to question and unplug from tribal mentality – they hang out on the periphery looking bored and restless, or whimsical and dreamy. Others may act out the agitated hot-head as they challenge tribal ways.  

The unspoken assumption of the tribal mind is that everybody loves being part of the tribe. And in many ways, we do. Knowing where and to whom we “belong” is crucial to our self-concept and sense of safety in the world. Yet when we begin the real deep journey of questioning, “What do I believe?” and start to individuate from the tribe, we often enter a dark night of the soul. It is, by necessity, a passage we take alone.

It's one thing to reject what we don't want to believe anymore. It's quite another to begin to explore what we do believe. All we know as we enter the dark night is that we can't go back – even when the tribe is the only world we've ever known.

At this critical point in our development, the tribe doesn't feel right anymore. It no longer offers us comfort. Previous feelings of security and familiarity begin to feel like a trap constraining our individuality and hampering our efforts to discover deeper levels of who we really are.

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Latvian 'Robin Hood' hacker leaks bank details to TV

As reported by the BBC:

An alleged hacker has been hailed as a latter-day Robin Hood for leaking data about the finances of banks and state-owned firms to Latvian TV.

Using the alias "Neo" - a reference to The Matrix films - the hacker claims he wants to expose those cashing in on the recession in Latvia.

He is slowly passing details of leading Latvian firms via Twitter to the TV station and has its audiences hooked.

The Latvian government and police are investigating the security breach.

Data leaked so far includes pay details of managers from a Latvian bank that received a bail-out.

It reveals that many did not take the salary cuts they promised.

Other data shows that state-owned companies secretly awarded bonuses while publicly asking the government for help.

'Cult status'

The anonymous hacker claims to be part of a group - called the Fourth Awakening People's Army - that downloaded more than seven million confidential tax documents from the State Revenue Service. He is thought to be based in Britain.

Over a three month period they downloaded the private data of up to 1,000 companies.

Ilze Nagla, a TV presenter on the state-owned Latvian TV, told the BBC the hacker has attained cult status for some.

"A lot of people perceive him as a modern, virtual Robin Hood," she told the BBC.

"On the one hand of course he has stolen confidential data... and he actually has committed a crime. But at the same time there is value for the public in the sense that now a lot of information gets disclosed and the whole system maybe becomes a little more transparent," she said.

Latvia is currently in the middle of its worst economic crisis since it broke free from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Unemployment, at 23%, is the highest in the European Union and over the last two years economic output has dropped by almost a quarter.

Musical Innerlube: Pathological Lovers




Insomnia



The photography of Antoine D'Agata.

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Skin cancer: healing clay & cansema applied

The documents in this section explore a single case of skin cancer treated with healing clay, cansema, and colloidal silver. Please note that the images included are very graphic. This study is freely provided as a public information service. While many skin cancers treated with Cansema are not as severe as the one this study documents, we strongly suggest a clinical diagnosis by a qualified medical practitioner, and if necessary qualified assistance from a licensed doctor practicing alternative medicine.

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Former police officer pleads guilty to Danziger Bridge shooting cover-up of stunning breadth

Admitting a cover-up of shocking breadth, a former New Orleans police supervisor pleaded guilty to a federal obstruction charge on Wednesday, confessing that he participated in a conspiracy to justify the shooting of six unarmed people after Hurricane Katrina that was hatched not long after police stopped firing their weapons.

The guilty plea of Lt. Michael Lohman, who retired from the department earlier this month, contains explosive details of the alleged cover-up and ramps up the legal pressure on police officers involved in the shooting and subsequent investigation. It's unclear when Lohman's cooperation with federal authorities began, but he presumably is prepared to testify against the officers he says helped him lie about the circumstances of a shooting he immediately deemed a "bad shoot."

Facts that Michael Lohman admitted to Lohman, who pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to obstruct justice, admits he failed to order the collection of evidence or canvassing of witnesses, helped craft police reports riddled with false information, participated in a plan to plant a gun under the bridge and lied to investigators who questioned police actions.

A spokesman for NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley said the chief did not have a comment about the guilty plea. Bob Young said Riley stands by the quote he made Tuesday, as news of the guilty plea broke. "We hope that justice is served," he said then.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Ray Nagin did not respond to a request for comment.

In a news conference after Lohman's plea, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said police must be held to the law.

"Police officers are there to protect us, and to protect the most vulnerable among us," he said. "Their jobs are to help individuals and protect us, not to hurt us. Sadly, sadly, we come across in the course of our work here...officers who violate their oaths of office, who occasionally violate their duties, violate their commitment to serve the public. And we take actions against those individuals wherever they violate federal law. We will continue to do that."

In the wake of the startling developments, defense attorneys for some of the six police officers and one former officer involved in the shooting maintained their clients' innocence.

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Plunder - The Crime of Our Time



http://www.mediaed.org

Exposing the forces responsible for the loss of trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, massive foreclosures and the disappearance of retirement funds, Plunder: The Crime of Our Time investigates the unregulated fraud and theft that led to the market's collapse in fall 2008. Filmmaker Danny Schechter, Emmy Award-winning former ABC News and CNN producer, explores the epidemic of subprime mortgages, predatory lending, insurance scams, and high-risk hedge funds to illustrate the connection between the housing market and the economic collapse that followed. Schechter tells this story by speaking with bankers involved in these activities, respected economists, insider experts, and top journalists, including Paul Krugman, and convicted white-collar criminal Sam Antar. A must for economics, business, and sociology courses, as well as anyone who wants to understand the current financial situation.




Learn about 'Plunder,' and how to help, on Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/d...

In 2006, filmmaker Danny Schechter was denounced by some reviewers as an alarmist for his film 'In Debt We Trust,' which warned of the coming credit crisis. He was labeled a doom and gloomer, until the economy melted down, vindicating his warnings. His new film, 'Plunder: The Crime Of Our Time' is a hard-hitting investigative film that shows how the financial crisis was built on a foundation of criminal activity.

Judge Alex Kozinski: The Fourth Amendment is gone. "Welcome to the fish bowl."

Last week the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an en banc rehearing of the case United States v. Lemus, which dealt with a warrantless police search of a suspect’s home after he was arrested outside of it. As a result of the 9th Circuit’s denial, the search will stand, which has left Chief Judge Alex Kozinski none too happy. In dissent, Kozinksi basically accused his colleagues of abandoning the Fourth Amendment:

This is an extraordinary case: Our court approves, without blinking, a police sweep of a person’s home without a warrant, without probable cause, without reasonable suspicion and without exigency—in other words, with nothing at all to support the entry except the curiosity police always have about what they might find if they go rummaging around a suspect’s home. Once inside, the police managed to turn up a gun “in plain view”—stuck between two cushions of the living room couch—and we reward them by upholding the search.

Did I mention that this was an entry into somebody’s home, the place where the protections of the Fourth Amendment are supposedly at their zenith?...

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Sick Of It All - "Step Down" EastWest Records

The 10 countries most likely to default

Dubai's economic meltdown was a warning sign of further sovereign default troubles for other governments.

CMA, a credit information specialist, tracks the world’s most volatile sovereign debt issuers according to percentage changes in their 5 year Credit Default Swaps.

On top of their list for the greatest sovereign risks are countries from the former Russian Eastern Bloc, conflict-torn nations, and an oil-rich dictatorship.

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Banks bet Greece defaults on debt they helped hide

Bets by some of the same banks that helped Greece shroud its mounting debts may actually now be pushing the nation closer to the brink of financial ruin.

Echoing the kind of trades that nearly toppled the American International Group, the increasingly popular insurance against the risk of a Greek default is making it harder for Athens to raise the money it needs to pay its bills, according to traders and money managers.

These contracts, known as credit-default swaps, effectively let banks and hedge funds wager on the financial equivalent of a four-alarm fire: a default by a company or, in the case of Greece, an entire country. If Greece reneges on its debts, traders who own these swaps stand to profit.

“It’s like buying fire insurance on your neighbor’s house — you create an incentive to burn down the house,” said Philip Gisdakis, head of credit strategy at UniCredit in Munich.

As Greece’s financial condition has worsened, undermining the euro, the role of Goldman Sachs and other major banks in masking the true extent of the country’s problems has drawn criticism from European leaders. But even before that issue became apparent, a little-known company backed by Goldman, JP Morgan Chase and about a dozen other banks had created an index that enabled market players to bet on whether Greece and other European nations would go bust.

Last September, the company, the Markit Group of London, introduced the iTraxx SovX Western Europe index, which is based on such swaps and let traders gamble on Greece shortly before the crisis. Such derivatives have assumed an outsize role in Europe’s debt crisis, as traders focus on their daily gyrations.

A result, some traders say, is a vicious circle. As banks and others rush into these swaps, the cost of insuring Greece’s debt rises. Alarmed by that bearish signal, bond investors then shun Greek bonds, making it harder for the country to borrow. That, in turn, adds to the anxiety — and the whole thing starts over again.

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Forest exile: Homeless New Yorkers camp out crisis



The recession has left many Americans in urgent need of shelter and with nowhere to go, forcing some to retreat to the woods. In the countryside, just one hour's drive from Manhattan, a shanty town of tents has sprung up. Anastasia Churkina meets the people for whom camping out, has become a way of life.

Kremlin responds to US-NATO threats

Russia Deploys Missiles on Western Frontier with European Union

by Anatoly Aliferov

The Iskander Missiles as the Guarantee of Normal Coexistence of Russia and Europe

Russia went public with the plan to deploy the Iskander missiles at its western frontier – in the Kaliningrad region or on the territories of neighboring countries, but the process of probing into Washington’s reaction is clearly taking too long. In politics, failure to appreciate the importance of acting quickly invariably creates problems, the above situation being a vivid example. The Iskanders are a remarkably potent weapon but it appears that Moscow risks playing the card as a minor element in the diplomatic game. One gets an impression that the threat to deploy the missiles in the Kaliningrad region has been aired too long for NATO on the whole or even Poland and the Czech Republic to take it seriously.

If this is the case and the powerful weapon is depreciated due to the evident lack of determination to use it, the adversary has reasons to conclude that the threat is nonexistent. In other words, NATO feels free to go on expanding east in line with its strategy and to disregard Russia’s objections as verbiage.

Recently Russian Minister of Defense and vehement proponent of the army reform A. Serdyukov inadvertently contributed to NATO’s resolution to make inroads into the post-Soviet geopolitical space. He said in Finland on February 19 that if Europe poses no threats to Russia there would be no Iskanders in the Kaliningrad region – they would be deployed only if threats emerge.

What does Serdyukov’s ‘if” amount to? The question is what new threats from the West does the Russian Defense Minister need to realize what is going on? The US stated with utmost clarity that its missile defense infrastructures would be sited in Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria. Other countries – Georgia and Turkey – will possibly also host them in the future. Is that not enough? Shall we wait for more? The threats are listed in Russia’s official military doctrine. Washington audaciously explains that it plans to site the missile shield in the proximity of Russia’s borders to neutralize the missile threat posed by North Korea and Iran. The authors of such “explanations” must be making fun of Russia.

M. Delyagin and V. Sheyanov exposed the folly of the above “defensive mentality” idly anticipating new threats in their The World Upside Down. Its carriers discern potential threats in the world around them but overlook entirely the opportunities linked to them. Failure to overcome the legacy of losing the Cold War and of under-performing during the past two decades breeds the “defensive mentality” in the ranks of Russian leaders that dooms the country to new defeats.

Gen. L. Ivashov wrote that Russia’s current military doctrine, military reform, and strategic arms control proposals are not synchronized and, moreover, are in disagreement over an array of significant issues. Is this not a promise of the coming new defeat?

You might ask how the Iskanders could help given the current state of Russia’s military affairs? An attempt to answer the question is made below.

The Iskander (NATO Reporting name SS-26 Stone) is a mobile theater ballistic missile system of a new generation superior to both other Russian missile systems (Skud-B, Tocka-U) and foreign analogs (Lance, ATACMS, Pluton, etc.). Designed by the Kolomna Machine-Building Design Bureau, the Iskander is built to suppress fire positions, air and missile defense systems, aircrafts at aerodromes, communication and control systems, and civilian infrastructures. The stealth technology is employed in the Iskanders which makes them invisible to radars. The Iskander performs evasive maneuvers and is immune to interception. It can be launched in complete darkness and can hit mobile targets with the precision of 2 m. At present no other missile system in the world boasts a comparable set of capabilities. The Iskander can be operated in combat continuously for 16 hours and is equivalent to nuclear weapon in terms of its overall potential.

If the decision to deploy Iskanders in the Kaliningrad region was actually made back when Russian President D. Medvedev mentioned the option for the first time, and undisguised preparations for the delivery of the missiles to the Russian enclave commenced (regardless of the situation around the US missile defense) now Moscow would not have to worry about responding to the US plan to station missile interceptors in Romania and Bulgaria. It is clear that the relations of partnership and mutual respect between Europe and Russia, which rank high on the list of Moscow’s priorities, could only be strengthened as the result.

Luckily, it is not yet late. There is still a chance that the Iskanders would serve as the guarantee of normal coexistence of Russia and the Atlantist Europe.

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Arundhati Roy on the Palestinian / Israeli Conflict



Segment from the film "We.." where Arundhati Roy speaks about the Israeli / Palestinian conflict in the middle east. Historic references, who funds it, and more.

Ukraine's Tynoshenko's withdrawal linked to delay in delivering highly advanced Russian S-300 Air Defense System to Iran

As a strategic analyst, what I do for my readers, is to connect the dots in Grand Strategy, military and economic strategy, and geopolitics. Often the dots do not seem to have any connection on the surface, but behind the scenes have a vital reason to be connected.

Such is the case with the Ukrainian presidential election, and the withdrawal of the Prime Minister Yulia Tynoshenko's legal challenge to the outcome of the election, and the delivery of the highly advanced S-300 Air Defense Missile System by Russia to Iran.

It was clear that neocon candidate, blond bombshell, Yulia Tynoshenko lost the election to the pro-Russian candidate. This was something that all the international observers agreed on. But the 'knives were out' for a 'battle royal' over the Ukraine - a battle between the international neocon/global banking cartel and Mother Russia. Suddenly, in a most unlikely move that surprised her supporters, Tynoshenko has dropped her challenge. You have to remember that the Ukraine has been a part of Russia, in the Russian Empire and then in the USSR, for hundreds of years. To the Russians, the Ukraine is as much a part of their nation as New York and New Jersey are to the Americans. The Russian Government considers that the matter of the outcome of the election to be a matter of vital national importance - those are words used to describe reasons to go to war regardless of the grave risk of such a war.

The Russians would not give in on 'western' demands to support much tougher sanctions on Iran and now suddenly the near-by (to Russia) Georgian republic is again 'heating up', threating another Georgian-Russian war with new supplies of American and Israeli military hardware. However, the Russians were willing to trade delaying the very high tech S-300 Air Defense System delivery to Iran for a neocon defeat/withdrawal in the Ukraine. Yulia Tynoshenko was 'thrown a bone' by being promised to be allowed to stay as Prime Minister for a while, but make no mistake about it, she was ordered to comply and she accepted in quick order as the good little neocon puppet she is.

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The Land Is Ours, Pure Genius, Wandsworth Eco-Village (1996)



The Land Is Ours - 'Pure Genius' Wandsworth Eco Village (1996) - 6 min - Aug 5, 2008
I was one of the Oxford based organisers and press spokespeople for the Easter 1996 Wandsworth Ecovillage so here is what I consider the best film made about our bit of practical eco living political theatre.
Wandsworth (Guinness site) John Pendragon and other residents comment on how and why they got involved in the TLIO occupation of the Guinness site just East of Wandsworth Bridge at Easter 1996. In May 1996, 500 The Land Is Ours (TLIO) activists occupied 14 acres of derelict land along the banks of the River Thames in Wandsworth. The land, owned by Guinness, had been vacant for six years, but was scheduled to be the site of a superstore (the ninth within a 1.5 mile radius) and luxury apartments. A pre-fabricated roundhouse was constructed, raised-bed veggie gardens were planted and a small village was built out of recycled materials. Local campaigners, particularly a guy called Kirk, were involved in building and running the eco-community, and thousands of folks came to visit. After holding the "Pure Genius" occupation for almost six months, 150 people on site were ousted by bailiffs acting for Guinness and the eco-village was flattened. The site was due to be designated as a nature conservation site by the London Wildlife Trust the next day.
Incredibly, Guinness won an Ecology Sponsorship Award in Geneva the same week that they ordered the eviction.

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image from http://www.spitting-image.net

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