Thursday, July 15, 2010

Once Upon a Time In Athens: The Legend of The Riot Dog


Starring Loukanikos The Riot Dog

Italians Mistake Russian Graffiti for Occult Scribbling

As reported by The Moscow Times:

Italian bloggers buzzed about mysterious graffiti that appeared on the walls of an ancient church in Rome, trying to decrypt its "occult" messages — only to discover that it was a regular “I love you” inscription in Russian.

The graffiti, painted in dark orange, appeared late Friday on the outer walls of Santa Scala, a famous pilgrim attraction whose stairs, brought to Rome in the 4th century, are believed to have been trodden by Jesus.

Police suspected that the “incomprehensible” words in a “foreign language” were insults aimed at Pope Benedict XVI, Italian news web site Ansa reported.

Some bloggers speculated that the phrase, which was said to feature combinations of letters and numbers, were codes for Bible passages.

Rome Mayor Giovanni Alemanno criticized the graffiti as "another act of imbeciles seeking media exposure" and expressed solidarity with the pontiff, Ansa reported.

Officials did not reveal the message, which was removed immediately.

But a photograph of the graffiti later surfaced that showed that the phrase was in Russian and read, "I love you, Vera. Vanya."

Investigators said they were looking for the vandal, who was filmed in the act by several witnesses but managed to flee before police arrived, the La Repubblica daily reported.

Israel paves the way for killing by remote control

It is called Spot and Shoot. Operators sit in front of a TV monitor from which they can control the action with a PlayStation-style joystick.

The aim: to kill.

Played by: young women serving in the Israeli army.

Spot and Shoot, as it is called by the Israeli military, may look like a video game but the figures on the screen are real people – Palestinians in Gaza – who can be killed with the press of a button on the joystick.

The female soldiers, located far away in an operations room, are responsible for aiming and firing remote-controlled machine-guns mounted on watch-towers every few hundred metres along an electronic fence that surrounds Gaza.

The system is one of the latest “remote killing” devices developed by Israel's Rafael armaments company, the former weapons research division of the Israeli army and now a separate governmental firm.

According to Giora Katz, Rafael's vice president, remote-controlled military hardware such as Spot and Shoot is the face of the future. He expects that within a decade at least a third of the machines used by the Israeli army to control land, air and sea will be unmanned.

The demand for such devices, the Israeli army admits, has been partly fuelled by a combination of declining recruitment levels and a population less ready to risk death in combat.

Oren Berebbi, head of its technology branch, recently told an American newspaper: “We're trying to get to unmanned vehicles everywhere on the battlefield … We can do more and more missions without putting a soldier at risk.”

Rapid progress with the technology has raised alarm at the United Nations. Philip Alston, its special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, warned last month of the danger that a “PlayStation mentality to killing” could quickly emerge.

According to analysts, however, Israel is unlikely to turn its back on hardware that it has been at the forefront of developing – using the occupied Palestinian territories, and especially Gaza, as testing laboratories.

~ more... ~

China ponders closing 'outdated' re-education labour camps

Since the 1950s, China has used "re-education through labour" to imprison people without trial.

Currently, there are an estimated 400,000 prisoners undergoing re-education through labour in around 310 camps across the country, according to China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong NGO.

The camps were originally used in Chairman Mao's era to lock away so-called Rightists, counter-revolutionaries and landlords.

While five to ten per cent of the detainees today remain political prisoners, the camps are more commonly used to house drug addicts, street hawkers, prostitutes and pickpockets. Inmates can be imprisoned at the camps for a maximum of four years.

The abolition of the labour camps has been called for several times by the United Nations and it appeared as if the Chinese government would close them down in 2007. However, they remain in force today.

Inmates interviewed by China Human Rights Defenders, a Hong Kong NGO, said they had been shackled upside down, electrocuted and forced to work when sick.

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Behind the media contractors' veil

By Mark Prendergast, Stars and Stripes

Ombudsman's Note: Congress established this position to conduct “aggressive and objective oversight” of Stars and Stripes' relationship with the military to foster independent, quality journalism and a “free flow of information” to the paper's readers absent censorship, propaganda or other forms of news management. This admittedly lengthy column is offered in support of that mandate.

                                                                          () () ()

When the U.S. military in Afghanistan canceled a media services contract with the Rendon Group last summer, Stars and Stripes, which had assailed Rendon's analyses of journalists' work as an affront to press freedom and a Pentagon effort to skew public perception of the war, saw it as a white flag and moved on.

Had journalists here and elsewhere instead pressed on, they might have found more to report with regard to the untold millions of dollars spent yearly on information services provided by contractors like Rendon.

For one, the identities of large companies are sometimes masked in public records with the designation “miscellaneous foreign contractors” – even when they are prominent, registered American firms, their contracts are unclassified, the companies and Pentagon officials are open about what they do, and the contractors have not asked to be shielded from public view.

One effect of this practice, which has been made harder to penetrate since I began asking about it early this year, is to hamper journalists, watchdog groups and members of the public in following the money trail of who is being paid by the government to inform and influence mass audiences in an ever-shrinking global media environment.

This comes as the Defense Department is reported to be planning to spend up to $1 billion next year on Psychological Operations while also imposing new rules that more tightly control information about the military and the Pentagon.

PsyOp is a component of what are called Information Operations (IO), which are persuasive actions that by law are supposed to be kept overseas and distinct from more neutral activities like public relations/Public Affairs (PA), which are supposed to factually inform audiences, including the American public.

Rendon is one firm in the information field whose identity the military has at times screened from public scrutiny, though an executive told me he was surprised to learn that.

Another is Wall Street-based SOS International Ltd., whose Web site says it provides intelligence and media support services to government and business around the world. Its two listed spokesmen did not respond to e-mail requests for information.

SOSi provided Gen. Stanley McChrystal with the civilian media adviser, Duncan Boothby, who arranged the fateful Rolling Stone “media engagement” that cost the general command of the Afghan war last month.

SOSi's Web site says the company also provided a key aide to McChrystal's successor, Gen. David Petraeus – a translator, Sadi Othman, who SOSi says rose to become a senior adviser while the general, himself a strong proponent of Information Operations, was leading the war effort in Iraq.

Rendon and SOSi contractors worked concurrently in the main military Public Affairs shop in Afghanistan last year, though only Rendon drew journalists' attention. SOSi is still there.

Both are among nine firms I encountered with media-related contracts for Iraq and Afghanistan shrouded in the designation “miscellaneous foreign contractors” – even though the contracts in question for six of those firms did not seem to fit the criteria for masking vendors' identities as laid out in the governing Federal Acquisition Regulation.

Moreover, since the Pentagon was provided with extensive details of this research into “miscellaneous foreign contractors” in the context of a query last month, key contract data that had been publicly accessible before then is now no longer so.

In nearly six months of pestering Pentagon offices, military PAO's on two continents, officials elsewhere in government and contractors themselves, among others, no one was willing or able to explain the “miscellaneous” listings, which were found on usaspending.gov, the open, online government database for contract information.

~ more... ~

Government Math…FOR KIDS!

By Keith Johnson

Luke:  She's rich.
Han Solo:  [interested] Rich?
Luke:   Rich, powerful. Listen, if you were to rescue her, the reward would be…
Han Solo:  What?
Luke:  Well, more wealth than you can imagine!
Han Solo:  I don't know, I can imagine quite a bit.
                                   from Star Wars-Episode IV-A New Hope

Hello, boys and girls!

Did you know that you and I can create millions, billions and even trillions of numbers just as easily as the Federal Reserve?  All you have to do is use your imagination.  Let's try it!

I'll use the number proposed by Obama for his 2011 Federal Budget.  Its numerical value looks something like this:

3,800,000,000,000

Translated into words, that number is pronounced as three trillion eight hundred billion.

That's a big number, huh?  It only took me three seconds to produce that number.  Let's put a dollar sign in front of that:

$3,800,000,000,000

Now, let's take that number and put it in the deposit column of our checkbook ledger and add that in to what we have on account.  For me, that figure would add up to be:

$3,800,000,000,127.14

I'm RICH!

Let's do the same for the Federal government.  Let's take that $3,800,000,000,000 that Obama wants for his 2011 Federal budget and put it into the deposit column of what the Federal government has on account.

Wait a minute!  The Federal government has no money on account.  As a matter of fact, they are this many dollars in the hole:

$13,053,274,954,598

O.K., so if the Federal Reserve gives the Federal government $3,800,000,000,000, does that bring the number down to:

$9,253,274,954,600?

Well, it would be if the Federal Reserve actually gave that money to the Federal government.  Unfortunately, that money is only a loan.  So, if we add what the Federal government already owes to the Federal Reserve to what it wants to borrow in the future, that number would be:

-$16,853,274,954,600

Did you catch that minus (-) figure I inserted before the dollar sign, children?  That ((MINUS!!!)) represents what you and your children and your children's children and their children will be expected to pay back to the Federal Reserve the minute they're born.

Now, if you'd like to spare your children all that grief and pay off your share of that debt right now, all you need to do is cough up $42,265.41.  But that doesn't quite get you off the hook because starting next year, you'll have to come up with about $1500.00 per month to pay for your share of the 2011 Federal budget.

~ more... ~

The Root of Economic Fragility and Political Anger

Robert Reich comments on his blog:

Missing from almost all discussion of America's dizzying rate of unemployment is the brute fact that hourly wages of people with jobs have been dropping, adjusted for inflation. Average weekly earnings rose a bit this spring only because the typical worker put in more hours, but June's decline in average hours pushed weekly paychecks down at an annualized rate of 4.5 percent.

In other words, Americans are keeping their jobs or finding new ones only by accepting lower wages.

Meanwhile, a much smaller group of Americans' earnings are back in the stratosphere: Wall Street traders and executives, hedge-fund and private-equity fund managers, and top corporate executives. As hiring has picked up on the Street, fat salaries are reappearing. Richard Stein, president of Global Sage, an executive search firm, tells the New York Times corporate clients have offered compensation packages of more than $1 million annually to a dozen candidates in just the last few weeks.

We're back to the same ominous trend as before the Great Recession: a larger and larger share of total income going to the very top while the vast middle class continues to lose ground.

And as long as this trend continues, we can't get out of the shadow of the Great Recession. When most of the gains from economic growth go to a small sliver of Americans at the top, the rest don't have enough purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable of producing.

America's median wage, adjusted for inflation, has barely budged for decades. Between 2000 and 2007 it actually dropped. Under these circumstances the only way the middle class could boost its purchasing power was to borrow, as it did with gusto. As housing prices rose, Americans turned their homes into ATMs. But such borrowing has its limits. When the debt bubble finally burst, vast numbers of people couldn't pay their bills, and banks couldn't collect.

Each of America's two biggest economic downturns over the last century has followed the same pattern. Consider: in 1928 the richest 1 percent of Americans received 23.9 percent of the nation's total income. After that, the share going to the richest 1 percent steadily declined. New Deal reforms, followed by World War II, the GI Bill and the Great Society expanded the circle of prosperity. By the late 1970s the top 1 percent raked in only 8 to 9 percent of America's total annual income. But after that, inequality began to widen again, and income reconcentrated at the top. By 2007 the richest 1 percent were back to where they were in 1928—with 23.5 percent of the total.

~ more... ~

Commentroversy: Big Bellys Have Long Been Foes To Freegan Umbrella Pickers

From Philebrity:

Posted earlier today in reply to “Big Belly Trash Can, You Lying Whore”:

this is amazing for me. My company takes broken umbrellas off the streets, out of the trash cans and repurposes them through upcycling into made to order dog coats, hats and other things. Last year when the Phils went to the World Series, it was like open trash can heaven bc they replaced all the big bellys with the regular “old school” cans which made my life as a trash picker a hell of alot easier. After we lost, they took away all the open trash cans and I wrote to the city's dept of waste management obviously as someone who knows alot about trash to tell them about what I do and how much the big bellys DON'T work (come on, we've all seen non recyclables shoved in the “bottle hole”). A women who works for the city responded basically telling me that the big bellys were Gods gift to Philadelphia and they were here to stay and they would offer me no help whatsoever trying to get people to stop shoving broken umbrellas into them when they clearly don't fit.
if big bellys leave the city, I'm going to have a party. the end.
There you have it: One man's trash can is another man's… trash can. And oh, what a party that would be.

‘Black Bloc’ vandals in Toronto were undercover police says Canadian research centre

These controllers manipulate public opinion from behind the scenes through the commission of false flag acts of violence (these are acts falsely blamed on scapegoats other than those concealed perpetrators who are actually responsible.) The psychological operation (psyop) is then accomplished through the propaganda fulminations of the completely controlled and complicit mass media. As in so many similar situations in so many other countries in the past, the goal of this combination of violent acts and lying media propaganda is to invalidate any legitimate citizen protest of the many immoral acts being wreaked upon the peoples of the world by our governments. The techniques of imperial control which have been used so successfully overseas are now being fully deployed against the people at home. Deployed against us. As far as our war-addicted governments are concerned, we are all insurgents now.

~ more... ~

Is Consciousness the Center of the Universe?

... Even if empathy were completely boarded up by critics as an important factor in doing science, this would not save the reputation of science as an exercise in complete objectivity. The role of the neutral observer is a goner. The death sentence for this concept has been obvious since the advent of quantum mechanics in the early twentieth century. In the words of physicist Wheeler:

"Nothing is more important about the quantum principle than this, that it destroys the concept of the world as "sitting out there," with the observer safely separated from it ... To describe what has happened, one has to cross out that old word "observer," and put in its place the new word "participator." In some strange sense the universe is a participatory universe."3

Physicist Henry P. Stapp of UC-Berkeley, a leading authority in the theoretical foundations of quantum physics, takes a similar view:

"The new physics presents prima facie evidence that our human thoughts are linked to nature by non-local connections: what a person chooses to do in one region seems immediately to affect what is true elsewhere in the universe ... [O]ur thoughts ... DO something [his emphasis]."4

To say that the universe is participatory is to say that consciousness matters. But the conventional view, that we're just "a pack of neurons" or "computers made of meat," or that "we're all zombies," as Crick, Minsky and Dennett assert, respectively, says otherwise. This view has no place for any meaningful degree of participation. This is an outdated perspective lodged in classical physics. It stems from the assumption that the brain's material particles and fields can give a full account of consciousness. But as physicist Stapp says,

"This [view] ... is motivated primarily by ideas about the natural world that have been known to be fundamentally incorrect for more than three-quarters of a century." ...


~ more... ~

Chaos theory and divine action

The question: Can science explain everything?

Whether or not science can explain everything is a question that was never far from the minds of a large group of theologians and scientists who met in Oxford last week. They'd assembled to celebrate the 80th birthday of John Polkinghorne, the professor of mathematical physics who made his name for his work on quarks, now an Anglican priest, and author of many books on science and religion. Moreover, it turns out that the question of science's limitations is intimately linked to Polkinghorne's much misunderstood account of God's action in the world.

The challenge is to avoid concocting a "God of the gaps" – a deity whose action occurs in the gaps where scientific explanations apparently fall short. The best known example of this is probably the bacterial flagellum. Advocates of intelligent design have argued that these whip-like devices for locomotion can only be explained by divine intervention because of their supposed "irreducible complexity". The trouble is that science progresses. What can't be explained in one decade is often explained in the next. Gaps get filled, and so God gets squeezed out.

Polkinghorne has been accused of advocating a God-of-the-gaps approach too. He has been taken to argue that chaos theory offers a way of understanding divine action, by virtue of the mistaken assumption that chaos theory paints a picture of an indeterminate world: if it's impossible to forecast the weather next week with any degree of accuracy, then perhaps that points to a pervasive randomness in the physical world, which God might exploit to divine advantage.

But that's not his idea, as Nick Saunders pointed out at the conference. As Polkinghorne knows better than most, the equations of chaos theory do, in fact, yield tightly causal results. The issue at stake in chaos theory is rather that you need to know the initial conditions of any system to an astonishingly high degree of accuracy to make accurate predictions. In practice, that's impossible to achieve. In other words, chaotic systems are not indeterminate, but underdetermined.

~ more... ~

Annual Independence FROM America demonstration

An account of the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB) annual 'Independence FROM America' demonstration held on Sunday 4th July 2010 at Menwith Hill, Near Harrogate.

What went on - 4 July 2010 at the American base at Menwith Hill (apologies for the delay)

Menwith Hill celebrated independence from Great Britain (1776) the week before the traditional
date - 4 July each year. Maybe this was because we were there to call for Independence FROM
America on that date. It was the annual demonstataion 'Independence FROM America' at the American
base at Menwith Hill. There has been a demonstration here since 1982.

Having had glorious hot summer weather for a lovely long time, on 4 July it changed! Very strong
winds and the heavens opened.

About 200 people came which was more people than last year. Perhaps this was because Mark Thomas
(comedian and political activist) and Peter Tatchell (Human rights activist) were the guest
speakers as well as an excellent 'line up' of musicians. This year the general theme was in line
with the World Cup - the goal is Independence FROM America.

Steve Hill (Daftasadrum) started the demonstration with a wonderful drumming workshop. The
demonstration was hosted by Martin Schweiger (doctor, activist and Quaker). Moira Hill and Peter
Kenyon read the Declaration of Independence FROM America (amended original version).

[ ... ]

The walk was special in that we had retrieved a small civil liberty (a bit of a struggle!). North
Yorkshire police (NYP) have prevented the traditional walk round the base for the past three years
by putting on conditions (Public Order Act 1986). CAAB contacted Liberty once again and this year
with their help NYP agreed that we could walk round Menwith Hill and further more they would help;
our argument that it is the duty of the police to enable protest as protest is one of our Human
Rights ('right to assemble' and 'freedom of expression'). We had carefully liaised with NYP and
had met senior officers before to stress these points.

~ more... ~

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