February 22, 2012
“Like Obi Wan Kenobi, Ron Paul is our only hope.” –KTRN
United States presidential contender Ron Paul has warned that his country is slipping into a twenty-first century fascist system with a broke government ruled by big business. RT asked some experts whether they agree.
Speaking to supporters in Kansas City, the Republican candidate said Americans’ individual liberties were being stripped away.
And, as Houston-based author Anis Shivani says, Paul is “the only candidate on the Republican side who is talking about the loss of civil liberties, pending illegal wars, making the connection between imperialism and the loss of rights at home.”
It now looks like Ron Paul could win the Maine caucus, and Shivani believes he could have more support with the American public but it seems that the media won’t allow it to happen:
“I think he does have hardcore support – maybe it could be 15 to 20 per cent of people on the conservative side. His support could be wider, but the media will never treat a candidate like him with seriousness, they will just dismiss him as a fringe candidate because of, for example, his very firm stance on Iran, he is saying ‘Let’s not get into another war on Iran, we just can’t afford it, and every time we do this, it makes governance at home more difficult.’ So the media will say he is just not interested in national security and dismiss him.”
Jeff Steinberg, a national security expert from Executive Intelligence Review Magazine, told RT that while Congressman Paul is right to say the US is slipping to fascism, the reality is something more dangerous.
He states that since his first day in office, President Barack Obama was completely under the control of Wall Street and the City of London. Obama has gone beyond all the excesses of the Bush administration in “asserting a policy of unitary executive presidential dictatorship,” Steinberg claims.
February 22, 2012
By Matthew Lee and Bradley Klapper
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying to ramp up diplomatic efforts against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime on a trip to North Africa this week, as some countries begin to explore the possibility of arming Syria’s rebels.
Clinton is traveling to London on Wednesday for a conference on Somalia, but U.S. officials will be using the international gathering to lay the groundwork for a major conference on Syria’s future taking place later this week in Tunisia. The trip comes as the Obama administration is opening the door slightly to international military assistance for Syria’s armed opposition.
In coordinated messages, the White House and State Department said Tuesday they still hoped for a political solution. But faced with the daily onslaught by the Assad regime against Syrian civilians, officials dropped the administration’s previous strident opposition to arming anti-regime forces. It remained unclear, though, what, if any, role the U.S. might play in providing such aid.
“We don’t want to take actions that would contribute to the further militarization of Syria because that could take the country down a dangerous path,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. “But we don’t rule out additional measures if the international community should wait too long and not take the kind of action that needs to be taken.”
The administration had previously said flatly that more weapons were not the answer to the Syrian situation. There had been no mention of “additional measures,” despite daily reports from Syrian activists of dozens of deaths from government attacks.
At the State Department, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland used nearly identical language to describe the administration’s evolving position.
“From our perspective, we don’t believe that it makes sense to contribute now to the further militarization of Syria,” she told reporters. “What we don’t want to see is the spiral of violence increase. That said, if we can’t get Assad to yield to the pressure that we are all bringing to bear, we may have to consider additional measures.”
Neither Carney nor Nuland would elaborate on what “additional measures” might be taken but there have been growing calls, including from some in Congress, for the international community to arm the rebels. Most suggestions to that effect have foreseen Arab nations such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — and not the West — possibly providing military assistance.
February 20, 2012
By Steve Watson
The British government has dusted off previously shelved plans to create huge databases, enabling spy agencies to monitor every phone call, email and text message as well as websites visited by everyone in the country.
The Telegraph reports that under the plans, the government will force every communications network to store the data for one year. The plans also extend to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and gaming sites.
The plans, drawn up by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, the government’s secret eavesdropping agency, may be officially announced as soon as May, according to details seen by the Telegraph. Those agencies would have real time access to the records kept by companies such as Vodafone and British Telecom.
The records would allow the spy agencies to monitor the “who, when and where” of every phone call, text message and email sent, while also allowing for internet browsing histories to be matched to IP addresses.
Unassumingly titled the Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP), the new scheme is set to be implemented under anti-terrorism laws, with the spy agencies saying it will allow them to more closely monitor suspects ahead of the London 2012 Olympics in July.
Critics and civil liberties advocates are calling for mass opposition to the plans, noting that the scheme is open to abuse not only by spy agencies and communications companies themselves, but also by hackers and online criminals.
Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, a civil liberties campaign organisation, said: “This would be a systematic effort to spy on all of our digital communications.
“No state in history has been able to gather the level of information proposed – it’s a way of collecting everything about who we talk to just in case something turns up.” Killock added.
Gus Hosein, of Privacy International, said: “This will be ripe for hacking. Every hacker, every malicious threat, every foreign government is going to want access to this.
“And if communications providers have a government mandate to start collecting this information they will be incredibly tempted to start monitoring this data themselves so they can compete with Google and Facebook.”
“The internet companies will be told to store who you are friends with and interact with. While this may appear innocuous it requires the active interception of every single communication you make, and this has never been done in a democratic society.” Hosein urged.
February 6, 2012
By Gordon G. Chang
This month, the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department reported that China imported 102,779 kilograms of gold from Hong Kong in November, an increase from October’s 86,299 kilograms. Beijing does not release gold trade figures, so for this and other reasons the Hong Kong numbers are considered the best indication of China’s gold imports.
Analysts believe China bought as much as 490 tons of gold in 2011, double the estimated 245 tons in 2010. “The thing that’s caught people’s minds is the massive increase in Chinese buying,” remarked Ross Norman of Sharps Pixley, a London gold brokerage, this month.
So who in China is buying all this gold?
The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, has been hinting that it is purchasing. “No asset is safe now,” said the PBOC’s Zhang Jianhua at the end of last month. “The only choice to hedge risks is to hold hard currency—gold.” He also said it was smart strategy to buy on market dips. Analysts naturally jumped on his comment as proof that China, the world’s fifth-largest holder of the metal, is in the market for more.
There are a few problems with this conclusion. First, the Chinese government rarely benefits others—and hurts itself—by telegraphing its short-term investment strategies.
Second, the central bank has less purchasing power these days. China’s foreign reserves declined in Q4 2011, falling $20.6 billion from Q3. The first quarterly outflow since 1998 was not large, but the trend was troubling. The reserves declined a stunning $92.7 billion in November and December.
Third, the purchase of gold would be especially risky for the central bank, which is already insolvent from a balance sheet point of view. The PBOC needs income-producing assets in order to meet its obligations on the debt incurred to buy foreign exchange, so the holding of gold only complicates its funding operations. This is not to say the bank never buys gold—it obviously does—but there are real constraints on its ability to purchase assets that do not provide current income.
Apart from China’s central bank, there is not much demand from the country’s institutional investors for gold. There are industrial users, of course, but their demand is filled from domestic production—China is the world’s largest gold producer. Most of China’s gold demand from foreign sources, therefore, is from individuals.
August 16th, 2011
By: Nick Davies
Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and their former editor Andy Coulson all face embarrassing new allegations of dishonesty and cover-up after the publication of an explosive letter written by the News of the World’s disgraced royal correspondent, Clive Goodman.
In the letter, which was written four years ago but published only on Tuesday, Goodman claims that phone hacking was “widely discussed” at editorial meetings at the paper until Coulson himself banned further references to it; that Coulson offered to let him keep his job if he agreed not to implicate the paper in hacking when he came to court; and that his own hacking was carried out with “the full knowledge and support” of other senior journalists, whom he named.
The claims are acutely troubling for the prime minister, David Cameron, who hired Coulson as his media adviser on the basis that he knew nothing about phone hacking. And they confront Rupert and James Murdoch with the humiliating prospect of being recalled to parliament to justify the evidence which they gave last month on the aftermath of Goodman’s allegations. In a separate letter, one of the Murdochs’ own law firms claim that parts of that evidence were variously “hard to credit”, “self-serving” and “inaccurate and misleading”.
Goodman’s claims also raise serious questions about Rupert Murdoch’s close friend and adviser, Les Hinton, who was sent a copy of the letter but failed to pass it to police and who then led a cast of senior Murdoch personnel in telling parliament that they believed Coulson knew nothing about the interception of the voicemail of public figures and that Goodman was the only journalist involved.
The letters from Goodman and from the London law firm Harbottle & Lewis are among a cache of paperwork published by the Commons culture, media and sport select committee. One committee member, the Labour MP Tom Watson, said Goodman’s letter was “absolutely devastating”. He said: “Clive Goodman’s letter is the most significant piece of evidence that has been revealed so far. It completely removes News International’s defence. This is one of the largest cover-ups I have seen in my lifetime.”
Goodman’s letter is dated 2 March 2007, soon after he was released from a four-month prison sentence. It is addressed to News International’s director of human resources, Daniel Cloke, and registers his appeal against the decision of Hinton, the company’s then chairman, to sack him for gross misconduct after he admitted intercepting the voicemail of three members of the royal household. Goodman lists five grounds for his appeal.
He argues that the decision is perverse because he acted “with the full knowledge and support” of named senior journalists and that payments for the private investigator who assisted him, Glenn Mulcaire, were arranged by another senior journalist. The names of the journalists have been redacted from the published letter at the request of Scotland Yard, who are investigating the affair.
Goodman then claims that other members of staff at the News of the World were also hacking phones. Crucially, he adds: “This practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the editor.” He reveals that the paper continued to consult him on stories even though they knew he was going to plead guilty to phone hacking and that the paper’s then lawyer, Tom Crone, knew all the details of the case against him.
In a particularly embarrassing allegation, he adds: “Tom Crone and the editor promised on many occasions that I could come back to a job at the newspaper if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff in my mitigation plea. I did not, and I expect the paper to honour its promise to me.” In the event, Goodman lost his appeal. But the claim that the paper induced him to mislead the court is one that may cause further problems for News International.
Two versions of his letter were provided to the committee. One which was supplied by Harbottle & Lewis has been redacted to remove the names of journalists, at the request of police. The other, which was supplied by News International, has been redacted to remove not only the names but also all references to hacking being discussed in Coulson’s editorial meetings and to Coulson’s offer to keep Goodman on staff if he agreed not to implicate the paper.
The company also faces a new claim that it misled parliament. In earlier evidence to the select committee, in answer to questions about whether it had bought Goodman’s silence, it had said he was paid off with a period of notice plus compensation of no more than £60,000. The new paperwork, however, reveals that Goodman was paid a full year’s salary, worth £90,502.08, plus a further £140,000 in compensation as well as £13,000 to cover his lawyer’s bill. Watson said: “It’s hush money. I think they tried to buy his silence.” Murdoch’s executives have always denied this.
When Goodman’s letter reached News International four years ago, it set off a chain reaction which now threatens embarrassment for Rupert and James Murdoch personally. The company resisted Goodman’s appeal, and he requested disclosure of emails sent to and from six named senior journalists on the paper. The company collected 2,500 emails and sent them to Harbottle & Lewis and asked the law firm to examine them.
Harbottle & Lewis then produced a letter, which has previously been published by the select committee in a non-redacted form: “I can confirm that we did not find anything in those emails which appeared to us to be reasonable evidence that Clive Goodman’s illegal actions were known about and supported by both or either of Andy Coulson, the editor, and Neil Wallis, the deputy editor, and/or that Ian Edmondson, the news editor, and others were carrying out similar illegal procedures.”
In their evidence to the select committee last month, the Murdochs presented this letter as evidence that the company had been given a clean bill of health. However, the Metropolitan police have since said that the emails contained evidence of “alleged payments by corrupt journalists to corrupt police officers”. And the former director of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, who examined a small sample of the emails, said they contained evidence of indirect hacking, breaches of national security and serious crime.
In a lengthy reply, Harbottle & Lewis say it was never asked to investigate whether crimes generally had been committed at the News of the World but had been instructed only to say whether the emails contained evidence that Goodman had hacked phones with “the full knowledge and support” of the named senior journalists. The law firm reveals that the letter was the result of a detailed negotiation with News International’s senior lawyer, Jon Chapman, and it refused to include a line which he suggested, that, having seen a copy of Goodman’s letter of 2 March: “We did not find anything that we consider to be directly relevant to the grounds of appeal put forward by him.”
In a lengthy criticism of the Murdochs’ evidence to the select committee last month, Harbottle & Lewis says it finds it “hard to credit” James Murdoch’s repeated claim that News International “rested on” its letter as part of their grounds for believing that Goodman was a “rogue reporter”. It says News International’s view of the law firm’s role is “self-serving” and that Rupert Murdoch’s claim that it was hired “to find out what the hell was going on” was “inaccurate and misleading”, although it adds that he may have been confused or misinformed about its role.
Harbottle & Lewis writes: “There was absolutely no question of the firm being asked to provide News International with a clean bill of health which it could deploy years later in wholly different contexts for wholly different purposes … The firm was not being asked to provide some sort of ‘good conduct certificate’ which News International could show to parliament … Nor was it being given a general retainer, as Mr Rupert Murdoch asserted it was, ‘to find out what the hell was going on’.”
The law firm’s challenge to the Murdochs’ evidence follows an earlier claim made jointly by the paper’s former editor and former lawyer that a different element of James Murdoch’s evidence to the committee was “mistaken”. He had told the committee that he had paid more than £1m to settle a legal action brought by Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers Association without knowing that Taylor’s lawyers had obtained an email from a junior reporter to the paper’s chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, containing 35 transcripts of voicemail messages. Crone and the former editor, Colin Myler, last month challenged this.
In letters published by the committee, the former News of the World lawyer repeats his position. He says this email was “the sole reason” for settling Taylor’s case. He says he took it with him to a meeting with James Murdoch in June 2008 when he explained the need to settle: “I have no doubt that I informed Mr Murdoch of its existence, of what it was and where it came from.”
Myler, in a separate letter also published on Tuesday, endorses Crone’s account. Their evidence raises questions about James Murdoch’s failure to tell the police or his shareholders about the evidence of crime contained in the email.
Watson said that both Murdochs should be recalled to the committee to explain their evidence. Hinton, who resigned last month, may join them. Four days after Goodman sent his letter, Hinton gave evidence to the select committee in which he made no reference to any of the allegations contained in the letter, but told MPs: “I believe absolutely that Andy [Coulson] did not have knowledge of what was going on”. He added that he had carried out a full, rigorous internal inquiry and that he believed Goodman was the only person involved.
Commenting on the evidence from the select committee, a News International spokesperson said: “News Corporation’s board has set up a management and standards committee, chaired by independent chairman Lord Grabiner, which is co-operating fully with the Metropolitan police and is facilitating their investigation into illegal voicemail interception at the News of the World and related issues.
“We recognise the seriousness of materials disclosed to the police and parliament and are committed to working in a constructive and open way with all the relevant authorities.”
August 16th, 2011
The Wall Street Journal
By: Evegeny Morozov
Did the youthful rioters who roamed the streets of London, Manchester and other British cities expect to see their photos scrutinized by angry Internet users, keen to identify the miscreants? In the immediate aftermath of the riots, many cyber-vigilantes turned to Facebook, Flickr and other social networking sites to study pictures of the violence. Some computer-savvy members even volunteered to automate the process by using software to compare rioters’ faces with faces pictured elsewhere on the Internet.
The rioting youths were not exactly Luddites either. They used BlackBerrys to send their messages, avoiding more visible platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It’s telling that they looted many stores selling fancy electronics. The path is short, it would seem, from “digital natives” to “digital restives.”
Technology has empowered all sides in this skirmish: the rioters, the vigilantes, the government and even the ordinary citizens eager to help. But it has empowered all of them to different degrees. As the British police, armed with the latest facial-recognition technology, go through the footage captured by their numerous closed-circuit TV cameras and study chat transcripts and geolocation data, they are likely to identify many of the culprits.
Authoritarian states are monitoring these developments closely. Chinese state media, for one, blamed the riots on a lack of Chinese-style controls over social media. Such regimes are eager to see what kind of precedents will be set by Western officials as they wrestle with these evolving technologies. They hope for at least partial vindication of their own repressive policies.
Some British politicians quickly called on the BlackBerry maker Research in Motion to suspend its messaging service to avoid an escalation of the riots. On Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron said that the government should consider blocking access to social media for people who plot violence or disorder.
After the recent massacre in Norway, many European politicians voiced their concern that anonymous anti-immigrant comments on the Web were inciting extremism. They are now debating ways to limit online anonymity.
Does the Internet really need an overhaul of norms, laws and technologies that gives more control to governments? When the Egyptian secret police can purchase Western technology that allows them to eavesdrop on the Skype calls of dissidents, it seems unlikely that American and European intelligence agencies have no means of listening the calls of, say, a loner in Norway.
We tolerate such drastic proposals only because acts of terror briefly deprive us of the ability to think straight. We are also distracted by the universal tendency to imagine technology as a liberating force; it keeps us from noticing that governments already have more power than is healthy.
The domestic challenges posed by the Internet demand a measured, cautious response in the West. Leaders in Beijing, Tehran and elsewhere are awaiting our wrong-headed moves, which would allow them to claim an international license for dealing with their own protests. The yare also looking for tools and strategies that might improve their own digital surveillance.
After violent riots in 2009, Chinese officials had no qualms about cutting off the Xinjiang region’s Internet access for 10 months. Still, they would surely welcome a formal excuse for such drastic measures if the West should decide to take similar measures in dealing with disorder. Likewise, any plan in the U.S. or Europe to engage in online behavioral profiling—trying to identify future terrorists based on their tweets, gaming habits or social networking activity—is likely to boost the already booming data-mining industry. It would not take long for such tools to find their way to repressive states.
But something even more important is at stake here. To the rest of the world, the efforts of Western nations, and especially the U.S., to promote democracy abroad have often smacked of hypocrisy. How could the West lecture others while struggling to cope with its own internal social contradictions? Other countries could live with this hypocrisy as long as the West held firm in promoting its ideals abroad. But this double game is harder to maintain in the Internet era.
In their concern to stop not just mob violence but commercial crimes like piracy and file-sharing, Western politicians have proposed new tools for examining Web traffic and changes in the basic architecture of the Internet to simplify surveillance. What they fail to see is that such measures can also affect the fate of dissidents in places like China and Iran. Likewise, how European politicians handle online anonymity will influence the policies of sites like Facebook, which, in turn, will affect the political behavior of those who use social media in the Middle East.
Should America and Europe abandon any pretense of even wanting to promote democracy abroad? Or should they try to figure out how to increase the resilience of their political institutions in the face of the Internet? As much as our leaders might congratulate themselves for embracing the revolutionary potential of these new technologies, they have shown little evidence of being able to think about them in a nuanced and principled way.
August 11th, 2011
Los Angeles Times
By: Janet Stobart
Reporting from London— Facing a full house at an emergency meeting of Parliament Prime Minister David Cameron promised “robust and uncompromising measures” in response to the riots that have plagued Britain since Saturday.
Facing a full house at an emergency meeting of Parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron promised “robust and uncompromising measures” in response to the riots that have plagued Britain since Saturday.
“To the lawless minority, the criminals who have taken what they could, we will hunt you. … We will punish you,” he said.
He vowed stronger police powers including the ability to unmask rioters, greater coordination between police and the community, and compensation funds for victims of violence and arson.
Speaking to a packed house of lawmakers called back from vacation, Cameron said police admitted that they were initially unprepared for and outnumbered during the flash riots, but he praised officers and community workers who struggled to protect neighborhoods.
To victims of the violence, Cameron pledged damage compensation, even for the uninsured. “We will help you repair the damage, get your businesses back up and running, and support your communities,” he said. Claims are expected to reach over $300 million.
However, budget cuts in police services, part of the government’s overall plan to reduce a huge deficit, would not be lifted, Cameron said, answering opposition questions to defer the measures.
Police would receive any “funds they need to meet the cost of any legitimate aims,” but plans to reduce their overall budget by 6% over the next four years would go ahead, he said.
Among their new powers, the prime minister said, would be the ability “under any circumstances” to demand that crime suspects remove face coverings. Many looters who ransacked shops during the riots wore masks to avoid being identified.
Crowd-dispersal and curfew regulations would also be reviewed, Cameron said.
He described what he sees as the underlying causes of the recent violence: a culture of disrespect for authority, gang culture, and children growing up in dysfunctional families.
Gang injunctions would be used across the whole country for children and for adults, he said. Other sanctions are already in place — local authorities, for exampled, can evict perpetrators of violence and disorder from subsidized housing — but they could be strengthened, he said.
“We can go further with getting to grips with gangs,” he said, noting the efforts of people such as William J. Bratton, who headed police forces in New York and Los Angeles.
Bratton is said to have been suggested as a possible outside candidate for the now-vacant post of chief commissioner for Scotland Yard.
As Cameron spoke, courts around the country were struggling to handle riot-linked cases that are pouring in, some conducting around-the-clock sessions. By Thursday, the number of arrests stood at about 922, police said, but the figure was increasing hourly.
July 18th, 2011
The New Yorker
By: Ken Auletta
For nearly two weeks, Rupert Murdoch and his people have claimed that the newspaper scandal in London was caused by a few rotten apples. Now that a very large apple, Rebekah Brooks, has been arrested, it is clear that it is the entire barrel that is rotten. Since many editors had to have known of the illegal hacking, and many people on the business side would have had to sign off on large, illegal payments to the police for information, more apples will drop in coming days. And not only at News Corp.: Sir Paul Stephenson, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, resigned Sunday. The best public-relations advice in the world will not help contain what is, for Murdoch, a spreading contagion that is no longer confined to London.
In the United Kingdom, Murdoch and his son James will have to tell a Parliamentary committee on Tuesday what they knew and when they knew it. More than that, they will have to try to rescue their company from multiple government onslaughts and criminal investigations from members of Parliament who think they must impose curbs on News Corp.’s ownership of newspapers and television and sports in England, and from shareholders who claim they have been cheated.
In the United States, News Corp., as an American company, will, among other things, have to explain why it has not violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it unlawful to pay bribes to government officials overseas—a proscription that includes the London police; whether the New York Post (or any of the company’s British newspapers) hacked into the mail or phone calls of celebrities in this country or of the families of 9/11 victims; and why their unethical behavior does not disqualify them under F.C.C. rules that require that those who license TV stations must be of solid moral character. Les Hinton, the head of Dow Jones and one of Murdoch’s senior executives in this country, has already resigned. (I wrote about Hinton’s departure on Friday.)
Murdoch’s influence with government officials here and abroad will not help him escape this time. In the current environment, will politicians, even those who courted him in the past, want be seen at his side, or risk their careers to come to his aid? The dam has sprung multiple leaks, and Rupert Murdoch doesn’t have enough fingers to stop the gushing water.
Today, Kevin explains how America has officially become one part fascism and one part communism. Find out why this lethal combination will only lead to catastrophe and if the government still has a chance to stop it before it’s too late!
UFOs Spotted In London
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June 30th, 2011
The Huffington Post
By: Dean Praetorius & Lee Speigel
While many of these types of UFO videos can often be easily written off, the emergence of two separate recordings of the same event could give you pause.
Even more incredible is just how similar they seem. Both videos show a group of three white discs floating over the city, namely over the BBC building and Tower Bridge.
Both were taken late last week, and in one of the videos you can see at least a few people looking up at the objects, adding some credibility to the cameraman.
Whether or not there’s a better explanation is a matter of opinion at this point.
Last October, many New Yorkers were astonished to witness several alleged UFOs maneuvering in the sky above the Chelsea section of Manhattan – in the middle of the afternoon.
While the FAA received many reports about the strange objects and radar returns couldn’t explain the UFOs away, it turned out that they may have simply been a bunch of balloons that had been intended for a party north of the city. The balloons reportedly got away from the party, and were carried along by air currents that eventually brought them to the Big Apple.
Could this also explain the London UFOs? Or is it a Photoshop hoax depicting alien-type vehicles in the sky?
Scroll down to vote on whether you think these are really UFOs, or if you think they can be explained away.