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In Protest, the Power of Place THE ever expanding Occupy Wall Street movement, with encampments now not only in Lower Manhattan but also in Washington, London and other cities, proves among other things that no matter how instrumental new media have become in spreading protest these days, nothing replaces people taking to the streets.
Another reminder came late last week when the landlord of Zuccotti Park, where the demonstrators in New York City have settled, at the last minute withdrew a request for police assistance in cleaning up the park. This, at least temporarily, averted a confrontation in front of the global media over what protesters regarded as just a pretext to evict them.
We tend to underestimate the political power of physical places. Then Tahrir Square comes along. Now it’s Zuccotti Park, until four weeks ago an utterly obscure city-block-size downtown plaza with a few trees and concrete benches, around the corner from ground zero and two blocks north of Wall Street on Broadway. A few hundred people with ponchos and sleeping bags have put it on the map.
Kent State, Tiananmen Square, the Berlin Wall: we clearly use locales, edifices, architecture to house our memories and political energy. Politics troubles our consciences. But places haunt our imaginations. (New York Times)
Officials concede gaps in U.S. knowledge of Iran plot Iran's supreme leader and the shadowy Quds Force covert operations unit were likely aware of an alleged plot to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, but hard evidence of that is scant, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
The United States does not have solid information about "exactly how high it goes," one official said.
The Obama administration has publicly and directly blamed Iran's government for seeking to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, and has warned Tehran it will face consequences. The accusation has heightened tensions in the volatile, oil-rich Gulf.
Tehran has called the accusation a fabrication designed to sow discord in the region.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said their confidence that at least some Iranian leaders were aware of the alleged plot was based largely on analyses and their understanding of how the Quds Force operates. (Reuters)
How politicians can kick the Wall Street habit So, protesters are occupying Wall Street and downtown banking districts in scores of other cities. Many Democratic politicos have endorsed the movement’s spirit and goals.
The pols are in no position to enact any further left-populist reforms — laws that create, say, a financial transaction tax, or that make it easier for employees to form unions — so long as Republicans control the House and have veto power in the Senate. For that matter, the Democrats couldn’t even get those bills enacted when they controlled both houses of Congress. So what, besides affirming their solidarity with the demonstrators, can they do? (Washington Post)
The federal government is cracking down on medical marijuana California's four U.S. Attorneys, including Sacramento's US Attorney Benjamin Wagner, held a press conference Friday to announce the federal government's intention to crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries. The federal government has sent out letters to dispensaries and their landlords in San Francisco, San Diego, and Marin County. The letters state that the dispensaries are in violation of federal law, which supersedes state law, and that landlords should evict their dispensary tenants and dispensaries should close up shop within 45 days otherwise both the dispensary owners and the landlords will be arrested and prosecuted.
The four U.S. Attorneys say they aren't aiming to close every dispensary in the state; just those that are "clearly profiteering" from the medical marijuana industry. But the letters come after the news that the IRS is trying to make Harborside Health Center in Oakland, the largest medical marijuana provider, pay $2.4 million in tax penalties for trafficking in illegal drugs. The federal government is sending a message loud and clear "we are no longer going to respect state medical marijuana laws". After Obama was elected he promised to respect state laws legalizing medical marijuana. He directed U.S. prosecutors to leave the sick with medical cards alone. Obama has broken that promise. By attacking the medical marijuana dispensaries the federal government is cutting off the sick from their medicine, and thus in effect attacking the sick with medical cards and ignoring state laws.
And while the Obama administration begins the assault on medical marijuana; there is a scandal growing that has gotten little attention. In December of 2010 a border patrol agent, Brian Terry, was found killed by drug cartels in Mexico. Then in March 2011 an agent of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), a federal agency, named John Dodson blew the whistle on a program called "Fast and Furious". "Fast and Furious" is a program by the ATF to sell thousands of guns to traffickers and drug cartels in Mexico; allegedly so the federal government can build a legal case. Two guns found at the scene of Brian Terry's death were linked to the "Fast and Furious" program. Since March the Obama administration has been distancing itself from the program. (Examiner)
61% Say Global Warming Serious Problem Most voters continue to believe global warming is a serious problem, but they still have mixed views on what the primary cause of climate change is.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 61% of Likely Voters say global warming is at least a somewhat serious problem. Thirty-five percent (35%) don’t believe climate change is a serious problem. Those figures include 28% who say it’s a Very Serious problem and 13% who believe it’s Not At All Serious. (Rasmussen)
Wartime Contracting Set To Spike Despite Rampant Fraud And Abuse Despite recent warnings about unchecked fraud and abuse associated with wartime contracting, the number of private contractors and the costs associated with them are set to dramatically increase in the coming transition from the military to the State Department in Iraq and Afghanistan
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, estimated that the State Department is set to increase its manpower in Iraq and Afghanistan from 8,000 to 17,000 — the great majority of whom will be contractors for security, medical, maintenance, aviation, and other functions.
The surge of wartime contractors comes after the Commission on Wartime Contracting issued its final report in late August that estimated that some $31 billion to $60 billion has been lost to contract waste and fraud.
“The waste and fraud associated with these expenditures is mind numbing,” Issa said Tuesday during a hearing to examine the Commission’s findings. “The State Department is building a virtual private army of security contractors in Iraq.” (Talking Points Memo)
ATF Fast and Furious: New documents show Attorney General Eric Holder was briefed in July 2010 New documents obtained by CBS News show Attorney General Eric Holder was sent briefings on the controversial Fast and Furious operation as far back as July 2010. That directly contradicts his statement to Congress.
On May 3, 2011, Holder told a Judiciary Committee hearing, "I'm not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks."
Yet internal Justice Department documents show that at least ten months before that hearing, Holder began receiving frequent memos discussing Fast and Furious. (CBS)
The ReFund California Pledge The growing Occupy Wall Street movement has shown that there is another alternative. Corporate profits and taxes on the super-rich, including those who sit on our schools and universities’ boards, could pay for refunding public education. This is why organizations representing millions of students and educators around the state have joined together in calling for a week of action from November 9th through 16th to ReFund Public Education, and are calling upon the UC Regents, the CSU Trustees and other political and corporate leaders to sign the Refund California Pledge. (ReFund California Coalition)
Millions of Bees Mysteriously Die in Florida Florida officials are abuzz as to how millions of honey bees were killed in Brevard County.
Several beekeepers in the county have reported lost colonies this week. Charles Smith of Smith Family Honey Company told Stuart News Thursday he lost 400 beehives. He says the bees appeared to have been poisoned.
“I’ll never get completely compensated for this unless someone handed me 400 beehives,” Smith told Stuart News. “I lost the bees, the ability to make honey and the ability to sell the bees.”
Smith told Florida Today that he lost $150,000 from the incident.
State officials are testing the bees to determine what type of chemicals contributed to their deaths. (CBS)
Occupy Wall Street: Let the co-opting begin As an assortment of unions voice support and celebrities pop up to cheer them on, the “Occupiers” think themselves to be gaining in a groundswell. Hardly . . . they’re about to be drowned.
Since I kvetched about the Occupy Wall Street “disorganizers” ten days ago, much has changed! Yet so much remains the same.
Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore, and other left-of-left celebrities have come out to cheer them on. Earlier, the best they could manage was Roseanne Barr!
A group of labor unions will be joining in and lending their full support.
MoveOn.org, the Coalition for the Homeless, and the Working Families Party are all getting excited.
Needless to say, the protesters are pleased. Look at all the attention their cause is getting! And their message is being heard!
“Great, they have a message now?” (Secular News Daily)
US man charged with Pentagon bomb plot A US citizen has been charged with planning to fly explosive-packed, remote controlled airplanes into the Pentagon and the Capitol in Washington.
Rezwan Ferdaus, 26, was arrested and charged with the aerial bombing plot and attempts to deliver bomb-making materials for use against US troops in Iraq, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in Boston.
''The conduct alleged today shows that Mr Ferdaus had long planned to commit violent acts against our country, including attacks on the Pentagon and our nation's Capitol,'' Mr Ortiz said.
During the alleged plot, undercover FBI agents posed as accomplices who supplied Ferdaus with one remote-controlled plane, C4 explosives, and small arms that he allegedly envisioned using in a simultaneous ground assault in Washington.
However, ''the public was never in danger from the explosive devices, which were controlled by undercover FBI employees,'' the FBI said.
Ferdaus was arrested in Framingham, near Boston, immediately after putting the newly delivered weapons into a storage container, the FBI said. (Agence France-Presse)
Did chemical reactions cause Twin Towers collapse? A mix of sprinkling system water and melted aluminium from aircraft hulls likely triggered the explosions that felled New York's Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, a materials expert has told a technology conference.
"If my theory is correct, tonnes of aluminium ran down through the towers, where the smelt came into contact with a few hundred litres of water," Christian Simensen, a scientist at SINTEF, an independent technology research institute based in Norway, said in a statement released Wednesday.
"From other disasters and experiments carried out by the aluminium industry, we know that reactions of this sort lead to violent explosions."
The official report blames the collapse on the over-heating and failure of the structural steel beams at the core of the buildings, an explanation Simensen rejects.
Given the quantities of the molten metal involved, the blasts would have been powerful enough to blow out an entire section of each building, he said. (Agence France-Presse)
Official says 3 slain men had throats cut ~ Drugs may be key in Waltham case The three men killed in a brutal attack this week in an apartment in Waltham died after their throats were cut, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation.
The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the case.
According to a statement from the Middlesex district attorney’s office, the men died of “sharp-force injuries of the neck.’’ The office did not release additional details yesterday.
The victims have been identified as Brendan Mess, 25, of Waltham; Erik Weissman, 31, of Cambridge; and Raphael Teken, 37, of Cambridge. Mess lived at the apartment at 12 Harding Ave., where the men were found Monday.
Authorities have not disclosed a motive for the attack, except to say that the victims were targeted.
Another law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the case who requested anonymity said drugs are believed to be a factor in the killings. (Boston Globe)
2011 Waltham murders A triple homicide was committed in Waltham, Massachusetts, in September 2011.
Brendan Mess, Erik Weissman, and Raphael Teken were murdered in Mess's apartment. All had their throats slit from ear to ear, thousands of dollars of marijuana and money were left covering their bodies, and $5,000 was left at the scene. The local district attorney said that it appeared that the killer and the victims knew each other and that the murders were not random.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the deceased suspect in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, had formerly described murder victim Brendan Mess as his best friend. After the bombings and subsequent revelations of Tsarnaev's personal life, the Waltham murders case was reexamined in April 2013 with Tsarnaev as a new suspect. ABC reported that authorities believe Tsarnaev may have been responsible for the triple homicide. (Wikipedia)
National drug survey shows big drop in methamphetamine use Drug use among college-age adults is increasing, driven largely by an increase marijuana use, a national drug-use survey has found.
Nearly one in 10 Americans report regularly using illegal drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants or prescription drugs used recreationally, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health made public today. The survey, sponsored by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), collects the data from interviews with 67,500 randomly selected people 12 years or older.
Marijuana, with 17.4 million regular users, is by far the most commonly used drug. Its popularity is growing: 6.9% of the population reported using marijuana regularly, up from 5.8% in 2007. Among 12- to 17-year-olds, 7.4% reported having used marijuana in the past month, about the same as last year.
Drug use among young adults 18 to 25 has inched up steadily from 19.6% in 2008 to 21.5% in 2010. Marijuana use in that group rose from 16.5% in 2008 to 18.5% in 2010.
Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, attributed the uptick in marijuana use to the increase in the number of states that have approved it for medical use. Delaware in May became the 16th state to approve medical marijuana.
Drug use climbs (USA Today)
New evidence links Saudi Arabia to 9/11 hijackers: Graham Weeks after terrorists brought down the World Trade Center, FBI agents swarmed into a Sarasota gated community to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a wealthy young Saudi couple who apparently had ties to some of the hijackers.
The couple and their two children abandoned their home abruptly, just a week or so before Sept. 11, leaving behind cars, furniture and food on countertops.
According to one published report, the FBI discovered phone calls between the house and at least two of the hijackers and several other terrorism suspects stretching back a year.
Yet until a Fort Lauderdale website reported the news this week, no mention of the couple has ever appeared publicly — not in the Sept. 11 commission report, nor in FBI briefings to congressional investigators, former Florida Sen. Bob Graham said Friday.
Graham called on President Barack Obama to reopen the case.
"This is the most important thing about 9/11 to surface in the last seven or eight years,'' Graham told the St. Petersburg Times. "It's very important for the White House to take control of this situation. The key umbrella question is: What was the full extent of Saudi involvement prior to 9/11 and why did the U.S. administration cover this up?'' (St Petersburg Times)
Testing Occupy Wall Street September 1st A video story of a peaceful protest test on Wall Street last Thursday Sept.1st, showing that we are living in a police state.
Each of us who were detained will return there again, brining friends over.
We cary our beliefs and no fears.
More and more people will be coming beginning September 17th.
Meaningless nonsense charges against us will be dismissed in a court, as it was with one of us, the person who was kept in jail that night and brought to the court the next day.
We believe in our constitutional rights for freedom of speech and peaceful demonstrations. (Occupy Wall Street)
A Victory for the Libyan People? The Top Ten Myths in the War Against Libya Since Colonel Gaddafi has lost his military hold in the war against NATO and the insurgents/rebels/new regime, numerous talking heads have taken to celebrating this war as a “success”. They believe this is a “victory of the Libyan people” and that we should all be celebrating. Others proclaim victory for the “responsibility to protect,” for “humanitarian interventionism,” and condemn the “anti-imperialist left”. Some of those who claim to be “revolutionaries,” or believe they support the “Arab revolution,” somehow find it possible to sideline NATO’s role in the war, instead extolling the democratic virtues of the insurgents, glorifying their martyrdom, and magnifying their role until everything else is pushed from view. I wish to dissent from this circle of acclamation, and remind readers of the role of ideologically-motivated fabrications of “truth” that were used to justify, enable, enhance, and motivate the war against Libya—and to emphasize how damaging the practical effects of those myths have been to Libyans, and to all those who favoured peaceful, non-militarist solutions.
These top ten myths are some of the most repeated claims, by the insurgents, and/or by NATO, European leaders, the Obama administration, the mainstream media, and even the so-called “International Criminal Court”—the main actors speaking in the war against Libya. In turn, we look at some of the reasons why these claims are better seen as imperial folklore, as the myths that supported the broadest of all myths—that this war is a “humanitarian intervention,” one designed to “protect civilians”. Again, the importance of these myths lies in their wide reproduction, with little question, and to deadly effect. In addition, they threaten to severely distort the ideals of human rights and their future invocation, as well aiding in the continued militarization of Western culture and society. (Counter Punch)
Quake raises safety concerns as nuclear plant shut The largest earthquake to hit the East Coast of the United States in 67 years raised concerns on Tuesday about the safety of the country's nuclear power plants.
The 5.8 magnitude quake's epicenter was just a few miles from the two-reactor North Anna nuclear power plant operated by Dominion Resources in Mineral, Virginia, 80 miles southwest of Washington.
The plant lost power and automatically halted operations after the quake. While a Dominion spokesman reported no "major" damage to the facility, three diesel generators were required to kick in and keep the reactors' radioactive cores cool. A fourth diesel unit failed.
While nuclear power plants can operate safely on back-up power, failure of generators was a key reason for the disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant after a 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami in March.
"Nuclear power plants lose a significant margin of safety when they're forced to rely on these emergency back-up systems," said Paul Gunter, director of reactor oversight at Beyond Nuclear, an anti-nuclear lobby group. (Reuters)
Behind the Story: MoJo's Investigation of Terrorism Informants Maybe you've wondered, on occasion of a press conference announcing another major terrorism bust: Why does it seem as if the FBI's undercover operatives actually encouraged—even thought up—the plot? Why do the targets come off as hapless losers unable to organize so much as a poker game? How come it was the government that provided the fake conspiracy, the fake car bomb or missile, even the fake Al Qaeda oath?
Trevor Aaronson wondered, too, and because he's an investigative reporter, he decided to do something about it: look at every terrorism case the government has prosecuted since 9/11 and dig through the evidence and testimony. The result is the lead story in our new magazine cover package, "Terrorists for the FBI."
Among the project's conclusions:
Nearly half the prosecutions involved the use of informants, many of them incentivized by money (operatives can be paid as much as $100,000 per assignment) or the need to work off criminal or immigration violations.
Sting operations resulted in prosecutions against 158 defendants. Of that total, 49 defendants participated in plots led by an agent provocateur—an FBI operative instigating terrorist action.
With three exceptions, all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings.
In all, this investigation reviewed more than 500 domestic terror prosecutions (for more details, see our charts page and searchable database). How did we identify them? The federal government unwittingly helped with this research in a huge way: Attorney General Eric Holder in March 2010 testified before Congress as the Obama administration sought to put 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in Manhattan—a plan it ultimately abandoned. One of the documents submitted to Congress was a list of all successful terrorism prosecutions from 9/11 through 2009. (Mother Jones)
Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes? Matt Taibbi: A whistle blower says the agency has illegally destroyed thousands of documents, letting financial crooks off the hook. - Imagine a world in which a man who is repeatedly investigated for a string of serious crimes, but never prosecuted, has his slate wiped clean every time the cops fail to make a case. No more Lifetime channel specials where the murderer is unveiled after police stumble upon past intrigues in some old file – "Hey, chief, didja know this guy had two wives die falling down the stairs?" No more burglary sprees cracked when some sharp cop sees the same name pop up in one too many witness statements. This is a different world, one far friendlier to lawbreakers, where even the suspicion of wrongdoing gets wiped from the record.
That, it now appears, is exactly how the Securities and Exchange Commission has been treating the Wall Street criminals who cratered the global economy a few years back. For the past two decades, according to a whistle-blower at the SEC who recently came forward to Congress, the agency has been systematically destroying records of its preliminary investigations once they are closed. By whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals, the SEC has kept an entire generation of federal investigators in the dark about past inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation against companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AIG. With a few strokes of the keyboard, the evidence gathered during thousands of investigations – "18,000 ... including Madoff," as one high-ranking SEC official put it during a panicked meeting about the destruction – has apparently disappeared forever into the wormhole of history.
Under a deal the SEC worked out with the National Archives and Records Administration, all of the agency's records – "including case files relating to preliminary investigations" – are supposed to be maintained for at least 25 years. But the SEC, using history-altering practices that for once actually deserve the overused and usually hysterical term "Orwellian," devised an elaborate and possibly illegal system under which staffers were directed to dispose of the documents from any preliminary inquiry that did not receive approval from senior staff to become a full-blown, formal investigation. Amazingly, the wholesale destruction of the cases – known as MUIs, or "Matters Under Inquiry" – was not something done on the sly, in secret. The enforcement division of the SEC even spelled out the procedure in writing, on the commission's internal website. "After you have closed a MUI that has not become an investigation," the site advised staffers, "you should dispose of any documents obtained in connection with the MUI." (Rolling Stone)
First responders decry exclusion from 9/11 ceremony When debris rained from the sky in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, the first responders to the terrorist attack did not turn away. They rushed to the World Trade Center buildings while the world around them crumbled.
Yet now, after all the wreckage has been cleared and the rebuilding has begun, their path is again blocked -- not by flying chunks of smoldering rubble, but by space constraints.
The first responders are not invited to this year's September 11 memorial ceremony at ground zero, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office confirmed Monday.
It's a painful insult for many of the approximately 3,000 men and women who risked their lives, limbs and lungs on that monumental day, puncturing another hole in a still searing wound. (CNN)
Obama Stumped by Question on Marijuana Legalization It's become pretty clear that the president is going to be asked about marijuana legalization absolutely any time he takes questions from the public, so it kind of amazes me that he is actually getting worse at talking about it. This latest exchange is just embarrassing:
President Barack Obama sidestepped a question about medical marijuana legalization at a town hall event in Cannon Falls, Minnesota Monday.
"If you can't legalize marijuana, why can't you just legalize medical marijuana?" a woman asked the president.
"A lot of states are making decisions about medical marijuana," Obama explained. "As a controlled substance, the issue is then that is it being prescribed by a doctor as opposed to... you know, well, I'll leave it at that." [Raw Story]
That is the best he can do to address one of the hottest topics in modern American politics. He'll just "leave it at that," because an increasingly frustrated public might react negatively to a slightly lengthier attempt at explaining why anyone, least of all sick people, should ever have to worry about being arrested and thrown in jail for having some marijuana in their pocket. (Huffington Post)
Rick Perry Thinks 'Printing More Money' Is 'Almost Treason' Because It Would Help The Economy And Thus Obama Texas governor, and freshly minted GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry will have to explain what he meant when he said "we would treat [Fed chairman Ben Bernanke] pretty ugly down in Texas" if he prints money -- or, more charitably, printing more money than usual. Likewise, he'll have to explain why he thinks printing money -- or prints more money than usual -- would be "almost treasonous," at least as compared to, say, secession.
But what's gone completely unnoticed in the wake of candidate Perry's first big flap is his rationale for opposing a looser Fed policy in this depressed economy: specifically that it would work, boost the economy, and thus make it harder for the GOP to defeat President Obama.
"If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous -- or treasonous -- in my opinion." (Talking Points Memo)
Rick Perry Running for U.S. President of Chinese Cyber Espionage Narcissistic bozo drag queen Rick Perry is officially running for President of Are You Fucking Serious? here in this great nation of ours that has been “out of ideas” about who to put in the White House since 1980, an exciting decision that gives the green light to media outlets everywhere to examine just how grotesquely incompetent this pandering idiot really is before declaring him the only “viable” candidate in the GOP presidential race. What have we learned about Rick Perry so far this morning? As governor of Texas, Rick Perry invited Chinese telecom giant Huawei to do business in his state after national security experts from both the Obama and W. administrations told everyone, “do not even open these guys’ emails because they are spies.” Perry not only opened, but he clicked 86 times, forwarded it to his entire contact list and then traveled to China with taxpayer money to personally tell Huawei, “come stay at my house if you need to send out a few more of these.” Hey guys, at least China writes back and offers some money once in a while, unlike God, said Rick Perry. (Wonkette)
Squelching social media after riots a dangerous idea A pretty good article that explains why censoring social media is a bad idea, and not just for first world selfish privacy concerns. I am particularly impressed by how she ties it to the worldwide struggle for internet freedoms. - In an emergency session of Parliament on Thursday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the violence, looting and arson sweeping his country "were organized via social media." He said his government is now considering how and whether to "stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality."
On Friday, China's state-run Xinhua news agency published a commentary contrasting Cameron's latest statements with his Arab Spring-inspired speech earlier this year, in which he loftily proclaimed that freedom of expression should be respected in Tahrir Square as much as in London's Trafalgar Square.
"We may wonder why Western leaders, on the one hand, tend to indiscriminately accuse other nations of monitoring, but on the other take for granted their steps to monitor and control the Internet," Xinhua said. "For the benefit of the general public, proper Web-monitoring is legitimate and necessary." (CNN)
Stop Coddling the Super-Rich OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.
While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.
These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.
Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent. (New York Times)
168 children killed in drone strikes in Pakistan since start of campaign As many as 168 children have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan during the past seven years as the CIA has intensified its secret programme against militants along the Afghan border. - In an extensive analysis of open-source documents, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that 2,292 people had been killed by US missiles, including as many as 775 civilians.
The strikes, which began under President George W Bush but have since accelerated during the presidency of Barack Obama, are hated in Pakistan, where families live in fear of the bright specks that appear to hover in the sky overhead.
In just a single attack on a madrassah in 2006 up to 69 children lost their lives.
Chris Woods, who led the research, said the detailed database of deaths would send shockwaves through Pakistan, where political and military leaders repeatedly denounce the strikes in public, while privately allowing the US to continue. (London Telegraph)
Rupert Murdoch's Greatest Moments in Ethics and Integrity Are we still talking about this whole phone-hacking scandal at News Corp.? That's such old news.
Tapping into the voicemails of major political figures and murder victims? Everybody did it. Top executives at one of the world's largest media companies arrested? A few bad apples. A cover-up that reaches the highest levels of the British government and law enforcement? Trumped-up charges from jealous rivals. Pie throwing in Parliament? OK, that guy must be a terrorist. Good thing Wendi clocked him.
You want Congress to investigate what News Corp. might have done in the United States? Are you some kind of Marxist?
Let's get back to what really matters. Profits are up at News Corp. And, as Rupert Murdoch assured investors yesterday, "There can be no doubt about our commitment to ethics and integrity." (Huffington Post)
69% Say It’s Likely Scientists Have Falsified Global Warming Research The debate over global warming has intensified in recent weeks after a new NASA study was interpreted by skeptics to reveal that global warming is not man-made. While a majority of Americans nationwide continue to acknowledge significant disagreement about global warming in the scientific community, most go even further to say some scientists falsify data to support their own beliefs. (Rasmussen)
The Informants ~ The FBI has built a massive network of spies to prevent another domestic attack. But are they busting terrorist plots--or leading them? JAMES CROMITIE WAS A MAN of bluster and bigotry. He made up wild stories about his supposed exploits, like the one about firing gas bombs into police precincts using a flare gun, and he ranted about Jews. "The worst brother in the whole Islamic world is better than 10 billion Yahudi," he once said.
A 45-year-old Walmart stocker who'd adopted the name Abdul Rahman after converting to Islam during a prison stint for selling cocaine, Cromitie had lots of worries—convincing his wife he wasn't sleeping around, keeping up with the rent, finding a decent job despite his felony record. But he dreamed of making his mark. He confided as much in a middle-aged Pakistani he knew as Maqsood.
"I'm gonna run into something real big," he'd say. "I just feel it, I'm telling you. I feel it."
Maqsood and Cromitie had met at a mosque in Newburgh, a struggling former Air Force town about an hour north of New York City. They struck up a friendship, talking for hours about the world's problems and how the Jews were to blame.
It was all talk until November 2008, when Maqsood pressed his new friend.
"Do you think you are a better recruiter or a better action man?" Maqsood asked.
"I'm both," Cromitie bragged.
"My people would be very happy to know that, brother. Honestly."
"Who's your people?" Cromitie asked.
Maqsood said he was an agent for the Pakistani terror group, tasked with assembling a team to wage jihad in the United States. He asked Cromitie what he would attack if he had the means. A bridge, Cromitie said. (Mother Jones)
Quick guide on group dynamics in people's assemblies This text has been prepared by the Commission for Group Dynamics in Assemblies of the Puerta del Sol Protest Camp (Madrid). It is based on different texts and summaries which reached consensus in the internal Assemblies of this Commission (and which will be made available on the official webs of the 15th May Movement) and from the experiences gained in the General Assemblies held in this Protest Camp up until 31st May 2011.
pdf-it, pdf-fr, pdf-es, pdf-en
The purpose of this Quick Guide is to facilitate and encourage the development of the different Popular Assemblies which have been created since the beginning of the 15th May Movement. This Quick Guide will be periodically revised and updated. On no account is it to be considered a closed model which cannot be adapted through consensus by any given Assembly. From the Commission for Group Dynamics in Assemblies of the Puerta del Sol Protest Camp we invite our friends and comrades to attend and take part in the meetings, work plans and internal Assemblies of this Commission, which are open to anyone who wants to come to them and actively participate in maintaining, perfecting and developing them. (Take The Square)
Why Voters Tune Out Democrats BARACK OBAMA can’t catch a break from the American public on the economy, even though he prevented a depression and saved global capitalism.
Perhaps the president finds solace in knowing he’s not alone. During this period of economic crisis and uncertainty, voters are generally turning to conservative and right-wing political parties, most notably in Europe and in Canada.
It’s perplexing. When unemployment is high, and the rich are getting richer, you would think that voters of average means would flock to progressives, who are supposed to have their interests in mind — and who historically have delivered for them.
During the last half-century or so, when a Democratic president has led the country, people have tended to experience lower unemployment, less inequality and rising income compared with periods of Republican governance. There is a reason, however, that many voters in the developed world are turning away from Democrats, Socialists, liberals and progressives.
My vantage point on voter behavior comes through my company, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, and its work for center-left parties globally, starting with Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992. For the last decade, I have worked in partnership with James Carville conducting monthly polls digging into America’s mood and studying how progressives can develop successful electoral strategies. (I am also married to a Democratic congresswoman from Connecticut, Rosa L. DeLauro.) (New York Times)
The Fed Audit The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the U.S. provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. An amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders to the Wall Street reform law passed one year ago this week directed the Government Accountability Office to conduct the study. "As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world," said Sanders. "This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you're-on-your-own individualism for everyone else."
Among the investigation's key findings is that the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland, according to the GAO report. "No agency of the United States government should be allowed to bailout a foreign bank or corporation without the direct approval of Congress and the president," Sanders said. (Bernie Sanders)
What Kind of "Doctor" is Marcus Bachmann? Over the weekend, Truth Wins Out and The Nation exposed the truth about Michele Bachmann's husband's Christian counseling service: It tries to "cure" gay people with harmful, quack-science "ex-gay" therapy.
On the web site of Bachmann and Associates, readers are invited to "meet Dr. Marcus Bachmann" who's been "a clinical therapist in the Twin Cities for more than 20 years." But what kind of "doctor" is Marcus Bachmann and where did he get his degree? In his bio Bachmann lists a masters degree from Pat Robertson's Regent University in Virginia. The bio also lists a "PhD – Clinical Psychology, Union Graduate School, OH." As blogger JARS points out in a well-researched post, the punctuation he uses is "PhD," which should be Ph.D." Okay, that could be just a style choice, as a commenter points out, and people do use both. But it's important because he may or may not have a doctor of philosophy in clinical psychology. And the Union Graduate School no longer exists. Bachmann got a doctoral degree in something from a shady university that came under scrutiny from the Ohio Board of Regents and whose graduate school was dissolved... (The Gist)
Former George Bush Chief Economist Says 911 Was An Inside Job Morgan O. Reynolds was a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University and former director of the Criminal Justice Centre at the National Centre for Policy Analysis headquarters in Dallas, TX. He also holds three U.W-Madison degrees
He served as chief economist for the United States Department of Labor during 2001--2002, George W. Bush's first term.
In 2005, he gained public attention as the first prominent government official to publicly claim that 9/11 was an inside job, and is a member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth.
Morgan refers to World Trade Centre # 7 in the video. (YouTube)
Ten Years After Decriminalization, Drug Abuse Down by Half in Portugal Drug warriors often contend that drug use would skyrocket if we were to legalize or decriminalize drugs in the United States. Fortunately, we have a real-world example of the actual effects of ending the violent, expensive War on Drugs and replacing it with a system of treatment for problem users and addicts.
Health experts in Portugal said Friday that Portugal’s decision 10 years ago to decriminalise drug use and treat addicts rather than punishing them is an experiment that has worked.
“There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal,” said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law. (Forbes)
FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Policies and Processes for Managing Emergency Assistance (GAO Report to Congressional Addressees) Why GAO Did This Study -
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act directed GAO to conduct a one-time audit of the emergency loan programs and other assistance authorized by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Federal Reserve Board) during the recent financial crisis. This report examines the emergency actions taken by the Federal Reserve Board from December 1, 2007, through July 21, 2010. For each of these actions, where relevant, GAO’s objectives included a review of (1) the basis and purpose for its authorization, as well as accounting and financial reporting internal controls; (2) the use, selection, and payment of vendors; (3) management of conflicts of interest; (4) policies in place to secure loan repayment; and (5) the treatment of program participants. To meet these objectives, GAO reviewed program documentation, analyzed program data, and interviewed officials from the Federal Reserve Board and Reserve Banks (Federal Reserve System).
- What GAO Recommends -
GAO makes seven recommendations to the Federal Reserve Board to strengthen policies for managing noncompetitive vendor selections, conflicts of interest, risks related to emergency lending, and documentation of emergency program decisions. The Federal Reserve Board agreed that GAO’s recommendations would benefit its response to future crises and agreed to strongly consider how best to respond to them.
- What GAO Found -
On numerous occasions in 2008 and 2009, the Federal Reserve Board invoked emergency authority under the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 to authorize new broad-based programs and financial assistance to individual institutions to stabilize financial markets. Loans outstanding for the emergency programs peaked at more than $1 trillion in late 2008. The Federal Reserve Board directed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) to implement most of these emergency actions. In a few cases, the Federal Reserve Board authorized a Reserve Bank to lend to a limited liability corporation (LLC) to finance the purchase of assets from a single institution. In 2009 and 2010, FRBNY also executed large-scale purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities to support the housing market. The table below provides an overview of all emergency actions covered by this report. The Reserve Banks’ and LLCs’ financial statements, which include the emergency programs’ accounts and activities, and their related financial reporting internal controls, are audited annually by an independent auditing firm. These independent financial statement audits, as well as other audits and reviews conducted by the Federal Reserve Board, its Inspector General, and the Reserve Banks’ internal audit function, did not report any significant accounting or financial reporting internal control issues concerning the emergency programs.
The Reserve Banks, primarily FRBNY, awarded 103 contracts worth $659.4 million from 2008 through 2010 to help carry out their emergency activities. A few contracts accounted for most of the spending on vendor services. For a significant portion of the fees, program recipients reimbursed the Reserve Banks or the fees were paid from program income. The Reserve Banks relied more extensively on vendors for programs that assisted a single institution than for broad-based programs. Most of the contracts, including 8 of the 10 highest-value contracts, were awarded noncompetitively, primarily due to exigent circumstances. These contract awards were consistent with FRBNY’s acquisition policies, but the policies could be improved by providing additional guidance on the use of competition exceptions, such as seeking as much competition as practicable and limiting the duration of noncompetitive contracts to the exigency period. To better ensure that Reserve Banks do not miss opportunities to obtain competition and receive the most favorable terms for services acquired, GAO recommends that they revise their acquisition policies to provide such guidance.
FRBNY took steps to manage conflicts of interest for its employees, directors, and program vendors, but opportunities exist to strengthen its conflict policies. In particular, FRBNY expanded its guidance and monitoring for employee conflicts, but new roles assumed by FRBNY and its employees during the crisis gave rise to potential conflicts that were not specifically addressed in the Code of Conduct or other FRBNY policies. For example, FRBNY’s existing restrictions on its employees’ financial interests did not specifically prohibit investments in certain nonbank institutions that received emergency assistance. To manage potential conflicts related to employees’ holdings of such investments, FRBNY relied on provisions in its code that incorporate requirements of a federal criminal conflict of interest statute and its regulations. Given the magnitude of the assistance (US Government Accountability Office)
Overworked America: 12 Charts That Will Make Your Blood Boil Want more rage? We've got eleven charts that show how the superrich spoil it for the rest of us.
In the past 20 years, the US economy has grown nearly 60 percent. This huge increase in productivity is partly due to automation, the internet, and other improvements in efficiency. But it's also the result of Americans working harder—often without a big boost to their bottom lines. Oh, and meanwhile, corporate profits are up 20 percent. (Also read our essay on the great speedup and harrowing first-person tales of overwork.)
You have nothing to lose but your gains
Productivity has surged, but income and wages have stagnated for most Americans. If the median household income had kept pace with the economy since 1970, it would now be nearly $92,000, not $50,000. (Mother Jones)
Amazon protests California Web-sales tax plan Amazon: tax effort is "unconstitutional" -- U.S. states may be eyeing budget deficits - Amazon.com Inc warned its 10,000-plus California sales affiliates on Wednesday that it may be forced to sever ties with them should the state begin taxing their online sales.
The wealthiest U.S. state became the latest -- on the heels of Illinois and Connecticut -- to be dropped by Amazon from its nationwide sales-affiliate program, which relies on in-state websites to drive its own online business.
Its affiliates, paid a fee when they funnel traffic to Amazon that results in a sale, have found themselves in the middle of a battle between Amazon and several states that argue the online retailer has a duty to collect sales taxes when those affiliates operate within their state.
US Department of Justice, James M. Cole Memo: Guidance Regarding the Ogden Memo in Jurisdictions Seeking to Authorize Marijuana for Medical Use Over the last several months some of you have requested the Department's assistance in responding to inquiries from State and local governments seeking guidance about the Department's position on enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in jurisdictions that have under consideration, or have implemented, legislation that would sanction and regulate the commercial cultivation and distribution of marijuana purportedly for medical use. Some of these jurisdictions have considered approving the cultivation of large quantities of marijuana, or broadening the regulation and taxation of the substance. You may have seen letters responding to these inquiries by several United States Attorneys. Those letters are entirely consistent with the October 2009 memorandum issued by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden to federal prosecutors in States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana (the "Ogden Memo").
The Department of Justice is committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale o f marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source o f revenue to large scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels. The Ogden Memorandum provides guidance to you in deploying your resources to enforce the CSA as part of the exercise of the broad discretion you are given to address federal criminal matters within your districts. - There has, however, been an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes. For example, within the past 12 months, several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple large-scale, privately-operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers. Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants. - Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law. (US Department of Justice)
Nuclear Plant’s Vital Equipment Dry, Officials Say When safety regulators arrive for a tour of a nuclear plant, the operators usually give the visitors a helmet, safety glasses and earplugs. When Gregory B. Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, got to the Fort Calhoun plant on Monday morning, the Omaha Public Power District offered him a life jacket.
Technically, what the plant is undergoing is not a flood but a “water event,” as the regulatory commission classifies it. But Fort Calhoun has clearly been outflanked by the Missouri River, first at its front door and now at its back door as well. The only access route to the plant is over a sinuous path of catwalks built over the submerged parking lot and walkways in recent weeks.
Vital equipment like generators, pumps and controls are dry, according to the power company and to Mr. Jaczko, who spent a couple of hours clambering over walls of sandbags and inspecting waterproof barriers, some of which were added in recent months at the commission’s insistence. - “We’ve had water at nuclear plants before, but this is the only time we can recall it to this extent or duration,” said Jeffrey Clark, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff member from the regional office in Arlington, Tex., who arrived here on June 9 for a quick look around but then stayed on.
The river is not expected to get substantially higher, but it may not get lower anytime soon, either. On Monday morning, Mr. Jaczko met with the Army Corps of Engineers but did not get a great deal of encouragement. (New York Times)
Fort Calhoun Nuclear Flood Emergency: Hours from core damage The makeshift flood berm "holding floodwaters from" Ft. Calhoun Nuclear Plant collapsed at 1:30 this morning and the plant is now operating on emergency generators as workers try to restore electricity after water surrounded the plant's main electrical transformers.
The auxiliary building at Ft. Calhoun, listed among the nation's 14 most dangerous nuclear plants, was surrounded by water after the berm failure according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission letter. (See Special Report: Nuclear flood threat: 1100 troops, 25,000 homes flooded, NRC chief onsite (vid)," Dupré, D. June 25, 2011)
The NRC letter stated that if water enters the auxiliary building, there could have been a station blackout with core damage in hours.
A berm holding the flooded Missouri River back from Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, 20 miles north of Omaha, Nebraska, collapsed early Sunday, but federal regulators said they were monitoring the situation and there was no danger according to AP. (Examiner)
Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 On June 23, 2011, U.S. Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA), Ron Paul (R-TX), Steve Cohen (D-TN), John Conyers (D-MICH.), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced H.R. 2306, a bill to end the federal prohibition on the possession, cultivation, distribution, importation and exportation of marijuana.
This is a remarkable bill for several reasons. First, the bill would truly and completely decriminalize marijuana under federal law. Unlike state laws that reduce the penalty for possession of marijuana from a criminal offense to a summary offense or violation like a traffic offense, there would be no federal violation for possessing or growing marijuana. For example, it is not a federal offense to drive too fast on a federally-funded highway -- it is only a violation of state law. Under this bill, it becomes solely a matter of state law whether one can possess or grow or sell marijuana.
Second, by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, one of the major impediments to state medical marijuana laws would be removed! If enacted, there could no longer be any argument that the state medical marijuana law is in "conflict" with federal law. The bill does not address any issues of regulation of marijuana as a "drug" under the Federal Food, Drug, Cosmetic and Device Act. (Sterling on Justice & Drugs)
Odd Letter From Corps Upsets Property Owners: Some Say Corps Flooded Land To Drive Down Prices Some river bottom property owners say they received a letter from the Army Corps of Engineers' Kansas City district office asking them if they want to sell their land.
KMBC's Micheal Mahoney reported that the letter is angering some of the people who received it because some of them are fighting for their land from a flood they believe the Corps caused.
The letter reads: "The Corps is currently seeking willing sellers." It is part of a 15-year-old corps plan to buy up river property or obtain easements.
The Corps wants the property to enhance wildlife areas for species like the pallid sturgeon -- an endangered fish the corps considers when managing the river.
But to some critics of the corps, it proves their suspicions. (KMBC)
Radioactive dust from Fukushima plant hit N. America soon after meltdown: researchers Radioactive materials spewed out from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant reached North America soon after the meltdown and were carried all the way to Europe, according to a simulation by university researchers.
The computer simulation by researchers at Kyushu University and the University of Tokyo, among other institutions, calculated dispersal of radioactive dust from the Fukushima plant beginning at 9 p.m. on March 14, when radiation levels around the plant spiked. (Mainichi Daily News)
Free to Search and Seize THIS spring was a rough season for the Fourth Amendment. The Obama administration petitioned the Supreme Court to allow GPS tracking of vehicles without judicial permission. The Supreme Court ruled that the police could break into a house without a search warrant if, after knocking and announcing themselves, they heard what sounded like evidence being destroyed. Then it refused to see a Fourth Amendment violation where a citizen was jailed for 16 days on the false pretext that he was being held as a material witness to a crime.
In addition, Congress renewed Patriot Act provisions on enhanced surveillance powers until 2015, and the F.B.I. expanded agents’ authority to comb databases, follow people and rummage through their trash even if they are not suspected of a crime.
None of these are landmark decisions. But together they further erode the privilege of privacy that was championed by Congress and the courts in the mid-to-late-20th century, when the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement was applied to the states, unconstitutionally seized evidence was ruled inadmissible in state trials, and privacy laws were enacted following revelations in the 1970s of domestic spying on antiwar and civil rights groups.
For over a decade now, the government has tried to make us more secure by chipping away at the one provision of the Bill of Rights that pivots on the word “secure” — the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee of “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.” (New York Times)
How An Athlete's Death Led To Shoddy Drug Laws In 1986, University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias died suddenly after a cocaine overdose. He had just been drafted by the Boston Celtics and was celebrating at a party in a university dorm room.
In a June 19 interview with Salon, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation President Eric Sterling explains how Bias' death prompted a poorly drafted mandatory-sentencing drug crime law that's still in place today. Sterling tells NPR's Neal Conan that the law has shaped the makeup of American prisons for years, penalizing crack cocaine users more harshly than those who use powder. And he would know — he helped write it. (National Public Radio)
Marijuana dispensary raided in south Sacramento A marijuana dispensary in south Sacramento was raided yesterday by Elk Grove police and the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. The two operators of the dispensary, a son and his father were placed under arrest. The two police departments claimed that they were operating as a for-profit establishment while the law only allows for non-profit dispensaries. However, this is clearly a front used by the local police to try and scare others out of the pot industry that is developing.
An Oakland based group, Americans for Safer Access, contends that police departments frequently justify raids by claiming a dispensary is not operating as a non-profit establishment. But what they are really doing is trying to maintain control over a market that is starting to become more mainstream. Sacramento police should not be wasting their time busting up marijuana dispensaries. By doing so they are merely interfering in patients suffering from severe illnesses from gaining access to the medicine they need. They are imprisoning people over laws with little public support. They are wasting taxpayer money on an offense which is non-violent, and doesn't harm the surrounding environment. (Examiner)
Bohemian Grove: Where the rich and powerful go to misbehave Every July, some of the richest and most powerful men in the world gather at a 2,700 acre campground in Monte Rio, Calif., for two weeks of heavy drinking, super-secret talks, druid worship (the group insists they are simply “revering the Redwoods”), and other rituals.
Their purpose: to escape the “frontier culture,” or uncivilized interests, of common men.
The people that gather at Bohemian Grove — who have included prominent business leaders, former U.S. presidents, musicians, and oil barons — are told that “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here,” meaning business deals are to be left outside. One exception was in 1942, when a planning for the Manhattan Project took place at the grove, leading to the creation of the atom bomb.
A spokesperson for Bohemian Grove say the people that gather there “share a passion for the outdoors, music, and theater.”
The club is so hush-hush that little can be definitively said about it, but much of what we know today is from those who have infiltrated the camp, including Texas-based filmmaker Alex Jones. In 2000, Jones and his cameraman entered the camp with a hidden camera and were able to film a Bohemian Grove ceremony, Cremation of the Care. During the ceremony, members wear costumes and cremate a coffin effigy called “Care” before a 40-foot-owl, in deference to the surrounding Redwood trees. (Washington Post)
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