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The Great SIM Heist: How Spies Stole the Keys to the Encryption Castle AMERICAN AND BRITISH spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The hack was perpetrated by a joint unit consisting of operatives from the NSA and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. The breach, detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document, gave the surveillance agencies the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data.
The company targeted by the intelligence agencies, Gemalto, is a multinational firm incorporated in the Netherlands that makes the chips used in mobile phones and next-generation credit cards. Among its clients are AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers around the world. The company operates in 85 countries and has more than 40 manufacturing facilities. One of its three global headquarters is in Austin, Texas and it has a large factory in Pennsylvania.
In all, Gemalto produces some 2 billion SIM cards a year. Its motto is “Security to be Free.”
With these stolen encryption keys, intelligence agencies can monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments. Possessing the keys also sidesteps the need to get a warrant or a wiretap, while leaving no trace on the wireless provider’s network that the communications were intercepted. Bulk key theft additionally enables the intelligence agencies to unlock any previously encrypted communications they had already intercepted, but did not yet have the ability to decrypt. (The Intercept)
Mitch McConnell's Freighted Ties to a Shadowy Shipping Company After drugs were found aboard the Ping May, a vessel owned by his wife's family's company, Colombian authorities are investigating. - Before the Ping May, a rusty cargo vessel, could disembark from the port of Santa Marta en route to the Netherlands in late August, Colombian inspectors boarded the boat and made a discovery. Hidden in the ship’s chain locker, amidst its load of coal bound for Europe, were approximately 40 kilograms, or about ninety pounds, of cocaine. A Colombian Coast Guard official told The Nation that there is an ongoing investigation.
The seizure of the narcotics shipment in the Caribbean port occurred far away from Kentucky, the state in which Senator Mitch McConnell is now facing a career-defining election. But the Republican Senate minority leader has the closest of ties to the owner of the Ping May, the vessel containing the illicit materials: the Foremost Maritime Corporation, a firm founded and owned by McConnell’s in-laws, the Chao family. (The Nation)
List of excuses for 'the pause' in global warming is now up to 52 An updated list of at least 29 32 36 38 39 41 51 52 excuses for the 18-26 year statistically significant ‘pause’ in global warming, including recent scientific papers, media quotes, blogs, and related debunkings:
1) Low solar activity
2) Oceans ate the global warming [debunked] [debunked] [debunked]
3) Chinese coal use [debunked]
4) Montreal Protocol
5) What ‘pause’? [debunked] [debunked] [debunked] [debunked]
6) Volcanic aerosols [debunked]
7) Stratospheric Water Vapor
8) Faster Pacific trade winds [debunked]
9) Stadium Waves
10) ‘Coincidence!’ (Watts Up With That)
Polar Bear Hunting on Rise Despite Species' Decline As the biennial meeting of the international Polar Bear Agreement begins in Moscow, Russia, new data points to an unsustainable rise in hunting that threatens the species. Despite the grim outlook for polar bears due to the growing threat of climate change, Canadian polar bear kills have risen at alarming rate, in excess of 10 percent over previous years.
"Canada's claims at this conference that polar bear hunting is not harming polar bear populations are disingenuous," said Teresa Telecky, director of wildlife at Humane Society International, referring to a recent report by Canada's Polar Bear Technical Committee. "Canada's own scientists are raising alarm about over-harvest not only in the past year but in the past three to five years. Canada and the other parties to the Polar Bear Agreement urgently need to address this problem."
Scientific experts at the meeting detailed the impact of sea-ice loss on polar bear survival, including loss of food source, loss of body condition, and fewer cubs surviving. Scientists continue to predict that two-thirds of polar bears will be lost by 2050. (Humane Society International)
The Real Crisis Is Not The Government Shutdown The inability of the media and politicians to focus on the real issues never ceases to amaze.
The real crisis is not the “debt ceiling crisis.” The government shutdown is merely a result of the Republicans using the debt limit ceiling to attempt to block the implementation of Obamacare. If the shutdown persists and becomes a problem, Obama has enough power under the various “war on terror” rulings to declare a national emergency and raise the debt ceiling by executive order. An executive branch that has the power to inter citizens indefinitely and to murder them without due process of law, can certainly set aside a ceiling on debt that jeopardizes the government.
The real crisis is that jobs offshoring by US corporations has permanently lowered US tax revenues by shifting what would have been consumer income, US GDP, and tax base to China, India, and other countries where wages and the cost of living are relatively low. On the spending side, twelve years of wars have inflated annual expenditures. The consequence is a wide deficit gap between revenues and expenditures.
Under the present circumstances, the deficit is too large to be closed. The Federal Reserve covers the deficit by printing $1,000 billion annually with which to purchase Treasury debt and mortgage-backed financial instruments. The use of the printing press on such a large scale undermines the US dollar’s role as reserve currency, the basis for US power. Raising the debt limit simply allows the real crisis to continue. More money will be printed with which to purchase more new debt issues needed to close the gap between revenues and expenditures. (Paul Craig Roberts)
Industrial hemp is legal in California After being stuck in legislative limbo for 14 years, industrial hemp is now a sanctioned agricultural crop in the state of California.
The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act (SB 566) was signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown, after years of deliberation dating back to 1999, a process that included multiple gubernatorial vetoes. The freshly signed law will allow approved California residents to grow hemp for industrial purposes by reclassifying the once-felonious plant as a "fiber or oilseed crop."
SB 566, a bill championed since 2005 by Sen. Mark Leno (D), defines industrial hemp as the "nonpsychoactive types of the plant Cannabis saliva L. and the seed produced therefrom, having no more than 3/10 of 1 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained in the dried flowering tops."
In simpler terms: It doesn't protect marijuana, but rather marijuana's less mind-bending cousin, which is far more useful as a raw industrial material.
"We are very pleased to have the signature," Sen. Leno told the Guardian. "It's been a 10-year effort to get here. It's a job still, but [the passing of SB 566] will help sustain family farms in California for the future and likely create more job opportunities. Hemp is a $500 million a year industry in California, and it's growing at 10 percent annually." (San Francisco Bay Guardian)
IPCC Climate Change Report Expresses Extreme Confidence In Human Cause Of Global Warming Scientists now believe it's "extremely likely" that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming, a long-term trend that is clear despite a recent plateau in the temperatures, an international climate panel said Friday.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change used its strongest language yet in a report on the causes of climate change, prompting calls for global action to control emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
"If this isn't an alarm bell, then I don't know what one is. If ever there were an issue that demanded greater cooperation, partnership, and committed diplomacy, this is it," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The IPCC, which has 195 member countries, adopted the report Friday after all-night talks at a meeting in Stockholm.
In its previous assessment, in 2007, the U.N.-sponsored panel said it was "very likely" that global warming was due to human activity, particularly the CO2 emissions resulting from the burning of coal, oil and gas. (Associated Press)
MERS At One: The Deadly Virus Drizzle We have the dubious privilege of observing a new disease in the midst of being born. The disease could go on to spread around the world, stall out as a minor, local blight, or disappear altogether. Scientists have been observing its emergence for a year now, and while they know more than they did in 2012, they still can’t predict quite what will happen. Part of their uncertainty stems from the fact that they still don’t know much about its past.
The disease I speak of is Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome–MERS for short. Last fall, doctors began recognizing this pneumonia-like disease in people who either lived in or passed through Saudi Arabia. Virologists soon isolated a virus common to them all, which they named MERS-CoV. Now, a year after its discovery, people are still getting infected with MERS, and many of the infected are dying. The World Health Organization reported on Friday that, from September 2012 to date, they’ve been notified of 130 people with laboratory-confirmed MERS-CoV infections, the vast majority of whom are in Saudi Arabia. Out of those 130 people, 58 have died.
Some scientists are scrambling to test out MERS vaccines and anti-viral drugs that can fight the pathogen. Others are acting as the virus’s historians, trying to figure out where it came from. Back in March, I wrote about the preliminary investigations into the origins of MERS. Now, six months later, researchers have looked at some of the viruses from newer cases, using powerful methods for statistically comparing the genes in the viruses. They’ve carried out the biggest genetic study of MERS so far.
The new study, from a team of Saudi and British scientists, appears in the journal The Lancet. (It’s free if you register. Or get it free without registering here.) The researchers isolated genetic material from viruses taken from 21 people sick with MERS. Many of them had become ill during a hospital outbreak in May 2013 in eastern Saudi Arabia. The scientists sequenced the full genome of 13 of the viruses, and got a third or more of the genetic material of the other eight. They compared the viruses to one another, as well as to other viruses that have been found earlier. (National Geographic)
PAUL: The devastating collateral damage of an insidious drug-war weapon If I told you that in America almost 1 million black Americans were forever forbidden from voting, you might think I was talking about Jim Crow 50 years ago, but you would be wrong. According to the Sentencing Project, a staggering number of nonviolent individuals who have been released from prison, are not on probation or parole and who have committed no further crimes, are forever prohibited from voting.
Many black Americans are prevented from ever voting because of the war on drugs.
On Wednesday, I testified before the SenateJudiciary Committee and described the injustice and effects of mandatory-minimum sentences.
These sentences are disproportionally affecting minorities and low-income communities. A recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union reports that blacks are four to five times more likely to be convicted for drug possession. Some dismiss this because they think blacks are committing more drug crimes, but in June, The New York Times reported that although black Americans were four times more likely to be arrested than whites for marijuana possession, both groups used the drug at similar rates. (Washington Times)
THE FUTURE OF EMPLOYMENT: HOW SUSCEPTIBLE ARE JOBS TO COMPUTERISATION? Abstract: We examine how susceptible jobs are to computerisation. To as-sess this, we begin by implementing a novel methodology to estimate the probability of computerisation for 702 detailed occupations, using a
Gaussian process classifier. Based on these estimates, we examine expected impacts of future computerisation on US labour market outcomes, with the primary objective of analysing the number of jobs at risk and the relationship between an occupation’s probability of computerisation, wages and educational attainment. According to our estimates, about 47 percent of total US employment is at risk. We further provide evidence that wages and educational attainment exhibit a strong negative relation-
ship with an occupation’s probability of computerisation. Keywords:Occupational Choice, Technological Change, Wage Inequality, Employment, Skill Demand (Oxford University)
The US government has betrayed the internet. We need to take it back The NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. We engineers built the internet -- and now we have to fix it - Government and industry have betrayed the internet, and us.
By subverting the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered and robust surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. The companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data: we can no longer trust them to be ethical internet stewards.
This is not the internet the world needs, or the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back.
And by we, I mean the engineering community.
Yes, this is primarily a political problem, a policy matter that requires political intervention.
But this is also an engineering problem, and there are several things engineers can – and should – do.
One, we should expose. If you do not have a security clearance, and if you have not received a National Security Letter, you are not bound by a federal confidentially requirements or a gag order. If you have been contacted by the NSA to subvert a product or protocol, you need to come forward with your story. Your employer obligations don't cover illegal or unethical activity. If you work with classified data and are truly brave, expose what you know. We need whistleblowers. (London Guardian)
Manufacturing the Deadhead: A product of social engineering… In 2012 Jan Irvin made an important discovery. In the course of re-publishing The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross by the Dead Sea Scrolls scholar John Allegro, Irvin had been researching the letters of one of Allegro’s most prominent critics, Gordon Wasson, at various university archives (including Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, and the Hoover Institute at Stanford) when he came across primary documents–letters actually written by Wasson–showing that he had worked with the CIA.
Though Gordon Wasson was both chairman for the Council on Foreign Relations and the Vice President of Public Relations for J.P. Morgan Bank, he is most famous as the individual who “discovered”, or more accurately popularized, magic mushrooms. An article in Life magazine described fantastic visions and experiences Wasson claimed to have had while under their influence (see Life, May 13, 1957 – Seeking the Magic Mushroom). Wasson’s claims were the first description of the effects of psilocybin (“magic”) mushrooms presented to the general public.
Irvin saw troubling implications in his discovery. He was aware, of course, of the CIA’s infamous Project MK-ULTRA, in which the organization had given LSD to unsuspecting U.S. citizens. He also knew of the many conspiracy theories claiming that the government has been somehow involved with the creation of the “drug culture.” He was also aware of Dave McGowan’s research on the drug and music movement that had come out of Laurel Canyon in the 1960‘s, which showed that many of the “rock idols” who created it were the children of members of military intelligence.
So the fact that a member of the CIA had also been involved with the discovery of Psilocybe mushrooms fit into a large collection of troubling linkages between the American government and the drug culture that emerged during the 1960’s. Irvin decided to do further research into the government’s involvement with the “psychedelic movement”. An obvious question he hoped to answer was: Had Wasson been somehow involved with MK-ULTRA?
During this research, Irvin came in contact with another scholar, Joe Atwill, author of Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus. Atwill’s research into the origins of Christianity had led him to conclude that Rome had invented the religion. Further, he believed that the Caesars had deliberately brought about the Dark Ages. They had used Christianity as a mind control device to give slavery a religious context intended to make it difficult for serfs to rebel. Like Irvin, Atwill had become suspicious of the U.S. government’s many connections to the psychedelic movement, which reminded him of the Caesars’ intellectual debasing of their population to help bring on the Dark Ages. (Gnostic Media)
EXCLUSIVE: Chinese carjack victim of Boston bombers only escaped when they stopped for Red Bull... and they didn't kill him because he 'wasn't American'
Man carjacked by Boston bombing suspects says he was able to escape after Dzhokhar ~ Tsarnaev went into a store for Red Bull and chocolate bars
~ The victim, a Chinese man in his early 20s, ran to a gas station nearby, where he was told a cashier that his captors had a bomb and guns - A man taken hostage by the alleged Boston bombers after he was car jacked was able to escape after they stopped to buy cans of Red Bull at a gas station, MailOnline can reveal.
The carjacking victim, whose name has not been revealed, has told authorities that being Chinese almost certainly saved his life, saying that the brothers told him they would not kill him because he was 'not American.'
The victim was able to jump out of the car and flee while Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, looked to buy cans of the energy drink and chocolate bars.
From interviews with the staff at both gas stations and court records, MailOnline has been able to piece together the frantic events of the early hours of last Friday.
The terrifying sequence of events began when Tamerlan carjacked a Mercedes SUV car at gun point barely 40 minutes after MIT campus police officer Sean Collier was killed as he sat in his patrol car.
Tamerlan jumped into the passenger seat of the Mercedes and told the driver: 'Did you hear about the Boston explosion... I did that.' (UK Daily Mail)
Police State on Display The Boston Marathon bombing has already demonstrated the best and the worst of America for all the world to see.
First, let’s talk about the best. When the bombs detonated, despite the shock and the horror of the blown-off legs and arms, and the blood on street and sidewalk, and without knowing what else might be coming, ordinary citizens jumped into action to try and help the gravely wounded and the dying. Average people with no experience in this kind of mayhem stepped up without hesitation to care for strangers, applying tourniquets, carrying people who couldn’t walk to hospital tents, or just holding a hand and calling for help.
People pored over their cellphone photo records and camera files, looking for photos that could help identify the killers. Without their volunteer actions, the police and federal agencies would have had no clue who they were looking for. With them, it was quick work pinpointing and identifying the two men who appear to have placed the two bombs.
Later, while police failed to catch one of the brothers suspected of having been a bomber, despite placing all of metropolitan Boston under a kind of martial law, it was a citizen who, after the so-called “lock-down” of the city had been lifted, spotted the suspect and alerted police.
Now for the worst.
Let’s start with the martial law. Okay, it wasn’t a declaration, but with police and the Mayor ordering everyone in Boston and its suburbs to stay inside and lock their doors, “answering only to police,” it was virtually the same thing. (Nation of Change)
FBI: Help us ID Boston bomb suspects After three days of poring over photos and video, investigators appealed to the public to help them identify two men now considered suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.
The men were photographed walking down Boylston Street, one behind the other, near the finish line of Monday's race.
Suspect 1 was seen wearing a light-colored, collarless shirt underneath a dark-colored jacket and wearing a dark baseball cap.
The man identified as Suspect 2 was seen setting down a backpack at the site of the second explosion "within minutes" of the blasts that killed three people and wounded nearly 180, said Special Agent Rick DesLauriers, the head of the FBI's Boston office. He was wearing a light-colored hooded sweatshirt, a black jacket and a white baseball cap turned backward. - Other footage, still unreleased, shows that the two suspects stayed at the scene to watch the carnage unfold, a federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told CNN's Susan Candiotti.
"When the bombs blow up, when most people are running away and victims were lying on the ground, the two suspects walk away pretty casually," said the official, who has seen the unreleased video. "They acted differently than everyone else."
While video of at least one suspect planting the bomb exists, the FBI had chosen not to release it, according to the official. One reason, according to the official, is that were the media to repeatedly show the suspects leaving the bomb, it might cause some people to overreact if they came into contact with them. (CNN)
FBI cancels press conference amid conflicting reports Surveillance video from the Lord & Taylor store on Boylston Street is proving to be a vital break in the Marathon bombing case, but the FBI has canceled a press conference in a day riddled with conflicting reports about a suspect caught on camera but no arrest announced.
In another twist, City Council President Stephen Murphy told the Associated Press tonight that police "may be on the verge of arresting someone and that's good." But he backed off his statement to the AP, saying he "has not been briefed" and that his comments were based on media reports.
“I was made aware today by media sources that there was a video from Lord & Taylor that showed a suspect leaving a duffel bag,” Murphy told the Herald. "I was recounting that (to the AP)."
The Lord & Taylor store set up the cameras in the 1980s to combat thieves who would park on Boylston and do hit-and-run robberies.
Still, authorities from the FBI to Boston police denied any arrest, with BPD tweeting: "Despite reports to the contrary there has not been an arrest in the Marathon attack." (Boston Herald)
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom calls for legalizing pot Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom called for the legalization of marijuana on Saturday.
“It’s time to decriminalize, tax and regulate marijuana,” he told delegates at the California Democratic Party convention. “It’s time we own up to the fact that our drug laws have done far more harm than good. The war on drugs is an abject failure.”
Newsom, who is known to have an eye on higher office, poked fun at the fact that he is the state’s acting governor because Gov. Jerry Brown is in China on a trade mission. (Los Angeles Times)
The War on Drugs Is a "Miserable Failure" A large crowd packed the pews of the historic Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. After a deacon introduced such VIP guests as Representatives Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and John Lewis (D-Georgia), the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and actor Danny Glover, Pastor Wallace Charles Smith set the stage for the afternoon's program.
"One of the biggest problems facing this nation and much of the world is the drug epidemic," said Smith. "It doesn't seem like this nation has made it a real priority. As long as there is the demand there will be someone who will supply it."
Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight, Freakonomics) told the crowd that he considers the War on Drugs a "primary human rights issue." On hand to screen an abridged version of his 2012 film The House I Live In (which took the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at Sundance), Jarecki said the day’s program was "bookended by two momentous occasions, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday and Barack Obama's inauguration, which includes a swearing in on Dr. King’s bible."
Jarecki added, "I consider [the War on Drugs] the unfinished work of the Civil Rights Movement."
"Amens" rang out from the crowd.
"The Drug War and its extraordinary injustice to people of color must end," said Jarecki. "I don’t just want it on the radar, I want it flashing defcon red. The War on Drugs as we know it has failed so miserably that who can defend it?" (National Geographic)
Obama's picks for defense, CIA signal new security era Obama's nominations of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the CIA signal second-term course adjustments at institutions that have been dominated by their lethal assignments during more than a decade of war. - President Obama is assembling a national-security team designed for an era of downsized but enduring conflict, a team that will be asked to preside over the return of exhausted American troops and wield power through the targeted use of sanctions, Special Operations forces and drone strikes.
Obama's nominations of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the CIA signal second-term course adjustments at institutions that have been dominated by their lethal assignments during more than a decade of war.
Those adjustments could include returning the CIA's focus to its core mission of gathering intelligence, even though it is expected to maintain its fleet of armed drones for years. The Pentagon faces an even more aggressive restructuring to balance budget cuts against threats, including China's ascendant military and emerging al-Qaida affiliates in North Africa and the Middle East.
The nominations also set the stage for confirmation fights driven not only by criticism of Hagel and Brennan but by the foreign-policy approach they represent.
Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, shares Obama's aversion to military intervention. White House officials described him as ideally suited to managing the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the shrinking Pentagon budget. But he has attracted fierce criticism from groups that question his support for Israel. (Washington Post)
China detains 500-plus people for doomsday rumors Chinese police have detained more than 500 people from a fringe Christian group for spreading rumors about the world's impending end, state media reported Tuesday.
In western China's Qinghai province alone, police arrested more than 400 members from the religious cult group, state-run China Central Television said Tuesday.
Police seized leaflets, video discs, books and other apocalyptic materials in the recent arrests of more than 500 people across eight provinces and regions, from the prosperous east coast to less developed western China, state media reports said.
The detentions come ahead of Friday, Dec. 21 — a date some say the Mayans prophesized would be the end of the world and which was the subject of the apocalyptic movie "2012." (Associated Press)
There's Little We Can Do to Prevent Another Massacre -- The things that would work are impractical and unconstitutional. The things we can do won't work. There just aren't good words to talk about Newtown. It is a crime that literally defies imagination--hell, it flings imagination down and dances upon its head. No one reading this can imagine strolling into an elementary school and opening fire on a bunch of small children. You can't imagine even wanting to.
Most crimes are motivated by unlovely impulses that are at least comprehensible: the desire for money, sex, respect, revenge. We don't do these things because we have been taught that "good people don't do that!"--and we want to think of ourselves as good people, or at least have the neighbors and our parents think of us as good people. Or perhaps we're merely afraid of getting caught and punished. But we can understand why people want to--we know what someone is after when they hold up a liquor store, or even kills their spouse for the insurance money. Understanding is not sanction: these crimes still have the power to anger and horrify. But they're comprehensible, and that comprehensibility is surprisingly comforting.
The alternative is Newtown. When one tries to picture the mind that plans it, one quickly comes to a dead end. Even if I had been raised with no moral laws at all, even if there were no cops and no prisons, I'm pretty sure that I still wouldn't want to spend a crisp Friday morning shooting cowering children. Trying to climb this mountain of wickedness is like trying to climb a glass wall with your bare hands. What happened there is pure evil, and evil, unlike common badness, gives an ordinary mind no foothold. (The Daily Beast)
Obama May Levy Carbon Tax to Cut U.S. Deficit, HSBC Says Barack Obama may consider introducing a tax on carbon emissions to help cut the U.S. budget deficit after winning a second term as president, according to HSBC Holdings Plc.
A tax starting at $20 a metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent and rising at about 6 percent a year could raise $154 billion by 2021, Nick Robins, an analyst at the bank in London, said today in an e-mailed research note, citing Congressional Research Service estimates. “Applied to the Congressional Budget Office’s 2012 baseline, this would halve the fiscal deficit by 2022,” Robins said.
Hurricane Sandy sparked discussion on climate protection in the election after presidential candidates focused on other debates, HSBC said. A continued Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives means Obama’s scope for action will be limited, Robins said. Cap-and-trade legislation stalled in the U.S. Senate after narrowly passing the house in 2009. (Bloomberg)
Obama's Second Term Foreign Policy Will Bring New Challenges Over Drone Strikes On Wednesday morning, as many Americans sifted through the voter data and exit poll numbers of President Barack Obama's reelection the night before, the Twitter feeds of close watchers of Yemen lit up with reports of another sort of presidential event: an apparent U.S. drone strike had killed several individuals in that country.
There was no way of being certain if the strike was indeed American, or for that matter if it was a drone strike at all, although it had all the markings of one.
"All signs (after dark, suspicions of locals, target) point to Sanhan strike being a US drone," Yemen-based freelance journalist Adam Baron wrote on Twitter.
Several other analysts concurred.
A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. If it were a American strike, of course, it would have to have been authorized by Obama.
Whatever its provenance, the strike served as a macabre reminder of the burdens that Obama faces as he turns his attention away from the campaign and back to the business of being commander in chief. (Huffington Post)
Will Iran Weather the Economic Storm? -- The depreciation of the rial is unlikely to change Iran's foreign-policy calculations. The conventional wisdom that the collapse of the Iranian rial will have disastrous consequences for the Islamic Republic has it wrong: On the contrary, it could be the best thing that has happened to the Iranian economy in years.
Iran is a classic case of the resource curse. OPEC founder Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso, who served as Venezuela's oil minister, called oil "the devil's excrement" for the pernicious impact petroleum revenues had on his country's economy. The same is true for Iran, which faces the challenge of becoming a country that produces goods, not merely consumes them. Unfortunately, the current Iranian government shows few indications it will meet this challenge. Rather, history suggests that Tehran will instead persist in its populist policies, including its confrontation with the international community about its nuclear program. (Foreign Policy)
"Anti-Occupy" law ends American's right to protest I was stunned upon hearing a news report about a protest going on in China. Teachers, parents with their young, school-age children and pro-democracy activitists (one estimate was 90,000 people) marched in Hong Kong to government headquarters last Sunday to publicly protest a new required “Patriotism” class, to be taught in the school system starting in 2015. The protestors think that the effort of the Chinese government here is to brainwash their kids in favor of communism.
What stunned me was that this protest, in China, against the government’s upcoming policy, at the government headquarters, would not now be tolerated here in the United States of America.
Thanks to almost zero media coverage, few of us know about a law passed this past March, severely limiting our right to protest. The silence may have been due to the lack of controversy in bringing the bill to law: Only three of our federal elected officials voted against the bill’s passage. Yes, Republicans and Democrats agreed on something almost 100%.
We have lived through a number of protests, large and small, and if we are like most, we shrug because the protestors or their message is either irrelevant or objectionable to us, and does not affect us. This non-interest is the case even when some of the protestors and some of their messages are highly objectionable. (Washington Times)
Terrorist Plots, Hatched by the F.B.I. THE United States has been narrowly saved from lethal terrorist plots in recent years — or so it has seemed. A would-be suicide bomber was intercepted on his way to the Capitol; a scheme to bomb synagogues and shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft was developed by men in Newburgh, N.Y.; and a fanciful idea to fly explosive-laden model planes into the Pentagon and the Capitol was hatched in Massachusetts.
But all these dramas were facilitated by the F.B.I., whose undercover agents and informers posed as terrorists offering a dummy missile, fake C-4 explosives, a disarmed suicide vest and rudimentary training. Suspects naïvely played their parts until they were arrested.
When an Oregon college student, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, thought of using a car bomb to attack a festive Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in Portland, the F.B.I. provided a van loaded with six 55-gallon drums of “inert material,” harmless blasting caps, a detonator cord and a gallon of diesel fuel to make the van smell flammable. An undercover F.B.I. agent even did the driving, with Mr. Mohamud in the passenger seat. To trigger the bomb the student punched a number into a cellphone and got no boom, only a bust.
This is legal, but is it legitimate? Without the F.B.I., would the culprits commit violence on their own? Is cultivating potential terrorists the best use of the manpower designed to find the real ones? Judging by their official answers, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department are sure of themselves — too sure, perhaps (New York Times)
The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say) The spring air in the small, sand-dusted town has a soft haze to it, and clumps of green-gray sagebrush rustle in the breeze. Bluffdale sits in a bowl-shaped valley in the shadow of Utah’s Wasatch Range to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west. It’s the heart of Mormon country, where religious pioneers first arrived more than 160 years ago. They came to escape the rest of the world, to understand the mysterious words sent down from their god as revealed on buried golden plates, and to practice what has become known as “the principle,” marriage to multiple wives.
Today Bluffdale is home to one of the nation’s largest sects of polygamists, the Apostolic United Brethren, with upwards of 9,000 members. The brethren’s complex includes a chapel, a school, a sports field, and an archive. Membership has doubled since 1978—and the number of plural marriages has tripled—so the sect has recently been looking for ways to purchase more land and expand throughout the town.
But new pioneers have quietly begun moving into the area, secretive outsiders who say little and keep to themselves. Like the pious polygamists, they are focused on deciphering cryptic messages that only they have the power to understand. Just off Beef Hollow Road, less than a mile from brethren headquarters, thousands of hard-hatted construction workers in sweat-soaked T-shirts are laying the groundwork for the newcomers’ own temple and archive, a massive complex so large that it necessitated expanding the town’s boundaries. Once built, it will be more than five times the size of the US Capitol.
Rather than Bibles, prophets, and worshippers, this temple will be filled with servers, computer intelligence experts, and armed guards. And instead of listening for words flowing down from heaven, these newcomers will be secretly capturing, storing, and analyzing vast quantities of words and images hurtling through the world’s telecommunications networks. In the little town of Bluffdale, Big Love and Big Brother have become uneasy neighbors.
The NSA has become the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever. (Wired)
Is This the End of Market Democracy? The 2012 election will offer voters a stark choice between right and left alternatives.
President Obama is calling for:
investing in things like education that gives everybody a chance to succeed. A tax code that makes sure everybody pays their fair share. And laws that make sure everybody follows the rules. That’s what will transform our economy. That’s what will grow our middle class again.
Republicans, in turn, are denouncing the expansion of a Democratic “entitlement society” and what they see as a trend toward European social democracy. They are calling for sharply reduced taxes, regulation and government spending to free market forces and revive private sector economic growth.
While Americans are going to be able to choose between two contrasting ideologies, what if both choices are off the mark? What if the legitimacy of free market capitalism in America is facing fundamental challenges that the candidates and their parties are not addressing?
Here are some of the issues that are making some politicians and political thinkers uneasy:
Are large segments of the American workforce — millions of people — at a structural disadvantage in the face of global competition, technological advance and ever more sophisticated forms of automation? Is this situation permanent?
Will the share of profits from improving corporate productivity flowing to capital and to high-earning C.E.O.s continue to grow, while the income of wage earners stagnates and their share of profits declines?
Has the surging wealth and income of the top one percent and of the top 0.1 percent reached a tipping point at which the political leverage of the very affluent decisively outweighs the influence of the electorate at large?
Is it possible that in the United States and Europe, democratic free market capitalism is no longer capable of providing broadly shared benefits to a solid majority of workers? (New York Times)
125 MW solar power plant to land in Arizona by end of 2013 Maricopa County, Arizona is set to play host to a 125 MW photovoltaic solar power plant, according to an announcement on Tuesday from Fluor Corporation. The company has won the separate contracts to build and maintain the facility, which upon completion will fleetingly join the ranks of the the world's largest photovoltaic solar farms. The project, known as Arlington Valley Solar Energy II (AVSE II) will be built on 1.8 square miles (4.7 sq. km) near to the Arlington Valley Combined Cycle Facility, a 577 MW natural gas plant also designed and built by Fluor.
"The State of California will benefit from the green energy delivered from the project as well as the solar panel sales from a San Diego-based manufacturer for a portion of the project," said John King, executive vice president of LS Power, who awarded the contract. (Giz Mag)
Awakening to Ron Paul’s Crony Capitalism Ron Paul believes in the feudalism of the land barons and gold bankers of King George. Ron Paul believes land and money are capital. Land and money are not capital. They are the common wealth. To declare any free market currency to be legal tender is state intervention and a corruption of free markets. Title to land is state intervention and corruption of free markets. The Bible and the classical liberals understand this distinction. Ron Paul does not understand this distinction. Ron Paul wants government to allow the banks and land barons to steal the common wealth. Ron Paul does not distinguish between earned wealth and wealth stolen through economic rent and monetary interest.
My article exposing Ron Paul as a globalist seeking the old world’s one world currency is getting a lot of traffic. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of people on forums discussing the article still have not awakened to the importance of the Endgame Ron Paul represents on the Grand Chessboard of the Red Symphony.
The awakening to the crimes of the New World Order is being misdirected into the worship of one man, Ron Paul, and into a blind faith of a false economic paradigm of crony capitalism and corruption of free markets of the worst kind by government, the Austrian School of Economics, funded by the same people, the Rockefeller Foundation, who take an active part in the funding and control of the New World Order. What is really dangerous is that it is sold as the opposition to the New World Order and as the opposition to crony capitalism and corruption of free markets by the government when it was funded by the New World Order and when it is crony capitalism and corruption of free markets by the government. (Liberty Revival)
Iran: a quickly evolving geopolitical imbroglio As the days go by, the situation with Iran just gets increasingly complex and worrisome given the egregious saber rattling coming from both the West and Iran alike.
As I outlined in my article entitled “Positioning for war with Iran?”, it has become clear that the West is either arming surrounding neighbors as a deterrent, preparation for an unprovoked strike, or perhaps even to goad Iran into attacking Western interest first, thus justifying brutal retaliation.
My fledgling series about the global growth of NATO and the Western empire also covers aspects of this greater trend and how these issues constantly evolve and how so many seemingly disconnected events are in fact inseparably linked.
While these issues may seem disconnected for some, I think it is quite important to point out that in fact they couldn’t be more closely related in that they are both symptoms of the cancerous war profiteering industry that is not only robbing the American people blind in the name of freedom but also eliminating our civil liberties and slaughtering innocent people around the globe. (End The Lie)
Hawaiian singer surprises Obama summit with 'Occupy' song A popular Hawaiian recording artist turned a top-security dinner of Pacific Rim leaders hosted by President Barack Obama into a subtle protest with a song in support of the "Occupy" movement.
Makana, who goes by one name, was enlisted to play a luau, or Hawaiian feast, Saturday night for leaders assembled in Obama’s birthplace Honolulu for an annual summit that is formulating plans for a Pacific free-trade pact.
But in the midst of the dinner on the resort strip Waikiki Beach, he pulled open his jacket to reveal a T-shirt that read "Occupy with Aloha," using the Hawaiian word whose various meanings include love and peace. He then sang a marathon version of his new song "We Are The Many." (Agence France-Presse)
How women defused population bomb This week the world will reach 7 billion people. Understandably that raises concern about a soaring world population. But there is a good news story from the demographic data that is not often told. We -- or rather the poor women of the world -- are defusing the population bomb.
Women today are having half as many children as their mothers and grandmothers. The global average is now down to 2.5 children per woman, and it continues to fall.
This is not just a rich-world phenomenon. Much of Asia now has fertility rates below two, from Japan and Korea to China, with its one-child policy, through Taiwan, Vietnam, Burma, Singapore and much of southern India and parts of the Middle East. Behind the veil, the women of Iran have cut their fertility from eight to less than two in a generation. - According to Stephen Pacala, the director of the Princeton Environmental Institute, the world's richest half billion people -- that's about 7 % of the global population -- are responsible for half the world's carbon dioxide emissions, the primary cause of man-made climate change. Meanwhile the poorest 50 % of the world are responsible for just 7 % of emissions. So there is no way halting population growth in the poor world today would have more than a very marginal effect on climate change.
It is the world's consumption patterns we need to fix, not its reproductive habits. Every time we talk about too many babies in Africa or India, we are denying this fact. (CNN)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Bruce Fein: Articles of Impeachment for tyrant Obama III.
USURPATION OF THE WAR POWER OVER LIBYA
47. President Barack Obama’s military attacks against Libya constitute acts of war.
48. Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-4) had the following exchange with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates during a March 31, 2011 House Armed Services Committee Hearing on the legality of the present military operation in Libya:
Congressman Forbes: Mr. Secretary, if tomorrow a foreign nation intentionally, for whatever reason, launched a Tomahawk missile into New York City, would that be considered an act of war against the United States?
Secretary Gates: Probably so.
Congressman Forbes: Then I would assume the same laws would apply if we launched a Tomahawk missile at another nation—is that also true?
Secretary Gates: You’re getting into constitutional law here and I am no expert on it.
Congressman Forbes: Mr. Secretary, you’re the Secretary of Defense. You ought to be an expert on what’s an act of war or not. If it’s an act of war to launch a Tomahawk missile on New York City would it not also be an act of war to launch a Tomahawk missile by us at another nation?
Secretary Gates: Presumably.
49. Since the passage of United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 on March 19, 2011, the United States has detonated over 200 tomahawk land attack cruise missiles and 455 precision-guided bombs on Libyan soil.
50. Libya posed no actual or imminent threat to the United States when President Obama unleashed Operation Odyssey Dawn.
51. On March 27, 2011, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated that Libya never posed an “actual or imminent threat to the United States.” He further stated that Libya has never constituted a “vital interest” to the United States.
52. United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 directs an indefinite United States military quagmire in Libya, authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians, which clearly contemplates removal by force of the murderous regime of Col. Muammar Qadhafi.
53. In a Letter From the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate sent March 21, 2011, President Barack Obama informed Members of Congress that “U.S. forces have targeted the Qadhafi regime’s air defense systems, command and control structures, and other capabilities of Qadhafi’s armed forces used to attack civilians and civilian populated areas. We will seek a rapid, but responsible, transition of operations to coalition, regional, or international organizations that are postured to continue activities as may be necessary to realize the objectives of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973.”
54. In his March 21, 2011 letter, President Barack Obama further informed Members of Congress that he opted to take unilateral military action “…in support of international efforts to protect civilians and prevent a humanitarian disaster.”
55. President Barack Obama has usurped congressional authority to decide on war or peace with Libya, and has declared he will persist in additional usurpations of the congressional power to commence war whenever he decrees it would advance his idea of the national interest. On March 28, 2011, he declared to Congress and the American people: “I have made it clear that I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies, and our core interests” (emphasis added).
56. President Obama’s humanitarian justification for war in Libya establishes a threshold that would justify his initiation of warfare in scores of nations around the globe, including Iran, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, Myanmar, China, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Cuba, and Russia.
57. In Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928), Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote on behalf of a majority of the United States Supreme Court:
Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.
58. President Barack Obama has signed an order, euphemistically named a “Presidential Finding,” authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, further entangling the United States in the Libyan conflict, despite earlier promises of restraint. Truth is invariably the first casualty of war.
59. In response to questions by Members of Congress during a classified briefing on March 30, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated that the President needs no Congressional authorization for his attack on the Libyan nation, and will ignore any Congressional attempt by resolution or otherwise to constrain or halt United States participation in the Libyan war.
60. On March 30, 2011, by persistent silence or otherwise, Secretary Clinton rebuffed congressional inquiries into President Obama’s view of the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution of 1973. She failed to cite a single judicial decision in support of President Obama’s recent actions, relying instead on the undisclosed legal opinions of White House attorneys.
61. President Barack Obama, in flagrant violation of his constitutional oath to execute his office as President of the United States and preserve and protect the United States Constitution, has usurped the exclusive authority of Congress to authorize the initiation of war, in that on March 19, 2011 President Obama initiated an offensive military attack against the Republic of Libya without congressional authorization. In so doing, President Obama has arrested the rule of law, and saluted a vandalizing of the Constitution that will occasion ruination of the Republic, the crippling of individual liberty, and a Leviathan government unless the President is impeached by the House of Representatives and removed from office by the Senate.
In all of this, President Barack Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. (Prison Planet)
Scientist: Japan earthquake, nuke “accident” are tectonic nuclear warfare; by Alfred Lambremont Webre Independent scientist Leuren Moret, whose 2004 landmark article in the Japan Times unmasked lies and distortions by government and company officials that led to the construction of nuclear power plants in seismically dangerous areas, has declared in an exclusive 65-minute video interview with Alfred Lambremont Webre that the “Japan earthquake and “accidents” at the Fukushima’s 6 nuclear power plant units starting March 11, 2011 are in fact deliberate acts of tectonic nuclear warfare, carried out against the populations ecology of Japan and the nations of the Northern Hemisphere, including the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
In her May 23, 2004 Japan Times article, Japan's deadly game of nuclear roulette, Ms. Leuren predicted, “It is not a question of whether or not a nuclear disaster will occur in Japan; it is a question of when it will occur. Like the former Soviet Union after Chernobyl, Japan will become a country suffering from radiation sickness destroying future generations, and widespread contamination of agricultural areas will ensure a public-health disaster. Its economy may never recover.”
Japan earthquake triggered by HAARP-aerosol/chemtrails plasma weapon, to cause nuclear radiation mega leaks
Now, in an exclusive interview released March 20, 2011, independent scientist has set out the multiple reasons why the Japan earthquake was most plausibly conditioned and triggered by a HAARP-aerosol/chemtrails plasma weapon, to cause Chernobyl-like nuclear radiation mega leaks that, according to a report by the Swedish government, will be distributed over the entire Northern hemisphere of the planet.
Among the various aspects of the Japan earthquake discussed by Ms. Moret that fit the profile of a HAARP-triggered earthquake system are:
• The earthquake intensity and characteristics; the deliberate confusion by the U.S. around the scale of the earthquake;
• The foreshadowing sale of Japan Westinghouse (controlled by Rockefeller interests) in 2006 to Hitachi and other interests;
• The use of the Stuxnet virus in the Fukushima plant to cause the malfunctions of the cooling pumps and valves, thereby creating the dangerous radiation releases;
• The creation of HAARP-related vortex clouds over the San Francisco, CA Bay Area on March 18, 2011 to trigger a heavy rain out of the radiation from the first Fukushima plant explosion onto the population, food and ecology of the Bay area.
The moment nuclear plant chief WEPT as Japanese finally admit that radiation leak is serious enough to kill people * Officials admit they may have to bury reactors under concrete - as happened at Chernobyl
* Government says it was overwhelmed by the scale of twin disasters
* Japanese upgrade accident from level four to five - the same as Three Mile Island
* We will rebuild from scratch says Japanese prime minister
* Particles spewed from wrecked Fukushima power station arrive in California
* Military trucks tackle reactors with tons of water for second day
- The boss of the company behind the devastated Japanese nuclear reactor today broke down in tears - as his country finally acknowledged the radiation spewing from the over-heating reactors and fuel rods was enough to kill some citizens
Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency admitted that the disaster was a level 5, which is classified as a crisis causing 'several radiation deaths' by the UN International Atomic Energy.
Officials said the rating was raised after they realised the full extent of the radiation leaking from the plant. They also said that 3 per cent of the fuel in three of the reactors at the Fukushima plant had been severely damaged, suggesting those reactor cores have partially melted down.
After Tokyo Electric Power Company Managing Director Akio Komiri cried as he left a conference to brief journalists on the situation at Fukushima, a senior Japanese minister also admitted that the country was overwhelmed by the scale of the tsunami and nuclear crisis. (UK Daily Mail)
Japan nuclear blast could be more deadly than Chernobyl, experts fear
Experts in Israel and abroad divided on scope of disaster at Japan's nuclear plants, as Japanese government hasn't provided accurate information regarding threat posed by explosions at Fukushima nuclear power plant. - Since the Japanese government has not provided accurate information regarding the possible threat posed by the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, experts in Israel and abroad are divided on the scope of the disaster and the ramifications for the environment.
It appears that immediately after earthquake warnings were first heard, the Japanese authorities shut down all six reactors located in the affected region, which lies 250 kilometers north of the capital Tokyo, by cutting off the flow of electricity to the reactors. But the emergency generator, whose function is to provide power to the pump responsible for cooling the reactor, did not activate. As a result, the reactor's core began to heat up.
At the same time, radioactive materials and gases were emitted into the air, but measurements taken indicate that the amount was relatively minimal. The most dangerous elements discharged were iodine and cesium, two by-products of the nuclear fission process that takes place in nuclear plants. These are two relatively volatile compounds that can easily spread into the atmosphere. (Haaretz)
Oil Plunges as Japan's Refiners Shut Plants After Earthquake Oil fell below $100 a barrel in New York for the first time in more than a week after Japan’s strongest earthquake in at least a century forced refiners to shut several processing plants.
U.S. crude futures were headed for their first weekly decline in a month following the temblor in the world’s third- largest oil user. A fire at Cosmo Oil Co.’s refinery in Chiba, outside Tokyo, is spreading, a Fire Department spokesman said. JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp. closed refineries in Sendai, Kashima and Negishi. In London, Brent crude was set for its first weekly decline in seven.
“The earthquake is having a psychological impact on the market in triggering a rise in risk aversion,” said Carsten Fritsch, an analyst at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt. “The effect is also physical, in that oil demand from Japan could temporarily be lower.”
Crude for April delivery tumbled as much as $3.69, or 3.6 percent, to $99.01 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was at $100.38 at 1:02 p.m. London time. Prices this week are down 3.9 percent, the first weekly drop in a month.
Brent oil for April settlement on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange dropped as much as $3.18, or 2.8 percent, to $112.25 a barrel. It was trading at $113.19 at 1:01 p.m. local time. The contract has lost 2.4 percent this week. (Bloomberg)
Hillary Clinton: US Losing Information War to Alternative Media The US is losing the global information war, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared while appearing before a congressional committee to ask for extra funds to spread US propaganda through new media.
Clinton said existing private channels are not good enough to handle the job, naming as rivals Al Jazeera, China's CCTV and RT -- which she watches, she added.
Clinton was defending her department's budget in front of the House's Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday.
Clinton said the US should step up its propaganda effort and get back "in the game" of doing "what we do best." (Russia Today)
Why the Dollar's Reign Is Near an End For decades the dollar has served as the world's main reserve currency, but, argues Barry Eichengreen, it will soon have to share that role. Here's why--and what it will mean for international markets and companies. - The single most astonishing fact about foreign exchange is not the high volume of transactions, as incredible as that growth has been. Nor is it the volatility of currency rates, as wild as the markets are these days.
Instead, it's the extent to which the market remains dollar-centric.
Consider this: When a South Korean wine wholesaler wants to import Chilean cabernet, the Korean importer buys U.S. dollars, not pesos, with which to pay the Chilean exporter. Indeed, the dollar is virtually the exclusive vehicle for foreign-exchange transactions between Chile and Korea, despite the fact that less than 20% of the merchandise trade of both countries is with the U.S.
Chile and Korea are hardly an anomaly: Fully 85% of foreign-exchange transactions world-wide are trades of other currencies for dollars. What's more, what is true of foreign-exchange transactions is true of other international business. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries sets the price of oil in dollars. The dollar is the currency of denomination of half of all international debt securities. More than 60% of the foreign reserves of central banks and governments are in dollars. (Wall Street Journal)
The Fourth American Revolution The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the Oh-Oh decade. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation and empire. The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II. -- The Fourth Turning -- Strauss & Howe --1997 (The Burning Platform)
China, Russia quit dollar China and Russia have decided to renounce the US dollar and resort to using their own currencies for bilateral trade, Premier Wen Jiabao and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin announced late on Tuesday.
Chinese experts said the move reflected closer relations between Beijing and Moscow and is not aimed at challenging the dollar, but to protect their domestic economies.
"About trade settlement, we have decided to use our own currencies," Putin said at a joint news conference with Wen in St. Petersburg.
The two countries were accustomed to using other currencies, especially the dollar, for bilateral trade. Since the financial crisis, however, high-ranking officials on both sides began to explore other possibilities. (China Daily)
IPCC Official: "Climate Policy Is Redistributing The World's Wealth" Climate policy has almost nothing to do anymore with environmental protection, says the German economist and IPCC official Ottmar Edenhofer. The next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economy summit during which the distribution of the world's resources will be negotiated. - Interview: Bernard Potter
NZZ am Sonntag: Mr. Edenhofer, everybody concerned with climate protection demands emissions reductions. You now speak of "dangerous emissions reduction." What do you mean?
Ottmar Edenhofer: So far economic growth has gone hand in hand with the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. One percent growth means one percent more emissions. The historic memory of mankind remembers: In order to get rich one has to burn coal, oil or gas. And therefore, the emerging economies fear CO2 emission limits.
But everybody should take part in climate protection, otherwise it does not work.
That is so easy to say. But particularly the industrialized countries have a system that relies almost exclusively on fossil fuels. There is no historical precedent and no region in the world that has decoupled its economic growth from emissions. Thus, you cannot expect that India or China will regard CO2 emissions reduction as a great idea. And it gets worse: We are in the midst of a renaissance of coal, because oil and gas (sic) have become more expensive, but coal has not. The emerging markets are building their cities and power plants for the next 70 years, as if there would be permanently no high CO 2 price.
The new thing about your proposal for a Global Deal is the stress on the importance of development policy for climate policy. Until now, many think of aid when they hear development policies.
That will change immediately if global emission rights are distributed. If this happens, on a per capita basis, then Africa will be the big winner, and huge amounts of money will flow there. This will have enormous implications for development policy. And it will raise the question if these countries can deal responsibly with so much money at all.
That does not sound anymore like the climate policy that we know.
Ottmar Edenhofer was appointed as joint chair of Working Group 3 at the Twenty-Ninth Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Geneva, Switzerland. The deputy director and chief economist of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Professor of the Economics of Climate Change at the Berlin Institute of Technology will be co-chairing the Working Group “Mitigation of Climate Change” with Ramón Pichs Madruga from Cuba and Youba Sokona from Mali. (Global Warming Policy Foundation)
The Digital Disruption: Connectivity and the Diffusion of Power Increased connectivity allows for the spread of liberal, open values but also poses a number of dangers. To foster the free flow of information and challenge authoritarian regimes, democratic states will have to learn to create alliances with people and companies at the forefront of the information revolution.
ERIC SCHMIDT is Chair and CEO of Google. He is a Member of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology and Chair of the New America Foundation. JARED COHEN is Director of Google Ideas. He is an Adjunct Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of Children of Jihad and One Hundred Days of Silence: America and the Rwanda Genocide. - The advent and power of connection technologies -- tools that connect people to vast amounts of information and to one another -- will make the twenty-first century all about surprises. Governments will be caught off-guard when large numbers of their citizens, armed with virtually nothing but cell phones, take part in mini-rebellions that challenge their authority. For the media, reporting will increasingly become a collaborative enterprise between traditional news organizations and the quickly growing number of citizen journalists. And technology companies will find themselves outsmarted by their competition and surprised by consumers who have little loyalty and no patience.
Today, more than 50 percent of the world's population has access to some combination of cell phones (five billion users) and the Internet (two billion). These people communicate within and across borders, forming virtual communities that empower citizens at the expense of governments. New intermediaries make it possible to develop and distribute content across old boundaries, lowering barriers to entry. Whereas the traditional press is called the fourth estate, this space might be called the "interconnected estate" -- a place where any person with access to the Internet, regardless of living standard or nationality, is given a voice and the power to effect change. (Foreign Affairs)
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