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Global Warming is Demolishing the dutch prostitution industry!
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 21:38
Recent deadly train accidents in Europe30 Jul, 2013
Barely a week after the deadly train accident in Spain, that killed 79 people, two trains collided head-on in Switzerland on July 29, 2013. Europe, generally known for it's high standards of passenger safety, has seen a spate of high profile train accidents in last one year.
A brief look at these recent train accidents show major anomalies and raises serious questions on the safety of train network in Europe. The accidents involve head-on collisions, train-derailments, level-crossing accidents, negligent driving, technical slags, possibly everything that can go wrong with Europe's train network.
Here's a look on some recent deadly train accidents in Europe.
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 21:38
OTTAWA '-- The Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Monday announced the arrest of two men who are accused of planning to derail a passenger train in an Al Qaeda-linked plot.
The police, saying the investigation was continuing, offered little in the way of details or evidence at a news conference in Toronto. Canadian politicians and government officials were similarly reticent.
Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said that the two suspects had received ''direction and guidance'' from ''Al Qaeda elements living in Iran,'' but that there was no evidence that the effort had been sponsored by the government of Iran.
He declined to explain how the link to Al Qaeda had been made.
The suspects were identified as Chiheb Esseghaier, 35, who has been living in Montreal, and Raed Jaser, 30, of Toronto. The police said the men were not Canadian citizens, but declined to identify their nationalities or to describe their immigration status in Canada.
Chief Superintendent Jennifer Strachan said the two men had studied train movements and rail lines in and around Toronto, and had been plotting to attack a train operated by Via Rail Canada, the government-owned rail system, within Canada.
The police declined to identify what train or train line the men had planned to target or to describe how the derailment was to have occurred. Via Rail, in conjunction with Amtrak, runs a train from Toronto to New York's Penn Station.
The police emphasized that the public had never been in ''imminent danger.'' Officials said that the suspects had been under constant observation and that contingency plans had been made.
Little is known about the men. The Canadian Press news agency reported that Mr. Esseghaier studied at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec in 2008 and 2009, and had recently been doing graduate work in biology at the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique in Montreal.
Both the police and David Jacobson, the United States ambassador to Canada, indicated that the F.B.I. and other American law enforcement and intelligence agencies were involved in the investigation. No one, however, offered any specifics about that involvement or indicated if the plot had a cross-border element.
''These arrests were the result of extensive cross-border cooperation, which is the hallmark of our relationship,'' Mr. Jacobson said in a statement. ''Dedicated professionals on both sides of the border brought these arrests to fruition.''
During the news conference, senior officers of the Mounted Police were asked repeatedly about the link to Iran, which seemed unusual. Iran is dominated by Shiites while Al Qaeda is a Sunni organization. But the United States has accused Iran of aiding Al Qaeda in the past.
The arrests were made shortly before Canada's House of Commons began a debate on legislation that would expand the powers of police and intelligence agencies in suspected terrorism cases.
Early this month, the Mounted Police said two young Canadians from London, Ontario, had died in January while participating in an attack on a gas plant in Algeria. In 2006, the police arrested 18 people in and around Toronto who they said were part of a Qaeda-affiliated group that planned attacks in Canada. Eleven were convicted or pleaded guilty while charges against the remainder of the suspects were dropped.
Correction: April 24, 2013
An article on Tuesday about the arrest in Canada of two men who the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said had been planning to derail a passenger train in a plot linked to Al Qaeda reversed, in some editions, the cities in which the suspects, Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, were living. Mr. Esseghaier has been living in Montreal, and Mr. Jaser in Toronto.
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 21:37
Anyone who's flown in recent years has encountered the stepped-up security procedures at the airport. But one expert says the focus on the skies ignores a far bigger safety risk these days: Mass transit on the ground.According to Arnold Barnett, a professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School, people who commute on subways and trains around the world face significantly greater security threats than air passengers. Speaking at the recent annual meeting of the Institute of Operations Research and the Management Sciences, Barnett presented statistics showing that rail and subway transit has become more dangerous
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 06:06
Two trains locked together after colliding head-on in Granges-pres-Marnand, Switzerland. Photograph: AP/Keystone
Two trains have collided in Switzerland, killing one of the drivers and injuring at least 35 people, five of them seriously, according to authorities.
The crash happened at Granges-pres-Marnand in the canton of Vaud as one of the trains headed to Lausanne and the other to Payerne. Between them they were carrying about 40 people.
Vaud police spokesman Jean-Christophe Sauterel said: "These are regional trains. The speeds are a little lower and even if one deeply regrets the likely loss of life of one person as well as five serious injuries, the situation could have been much more catastrophic."
Public TV station SRF quoted Vaud canton police spokesman Pierre-Olivier Gaudard as saying that one person had yet to be recovered from the wreckage. This was understood to be one of the drivers.
The crash happened near the station of Granges-pres-Marnand shortly before 7pm local time on a regional line about 31 miles (50km) south-west of the capital, Bern.
Photographs from the site showed the two regional trains locked together, partly lifted off the tracks by the force of the collision.
Last week a high-speed derailment in Spain killed 79 people.
Mon, 29 Jul 2013 11:23
Francisco Garz"n has been accused of manslaughter by police but the drivers' union urged caution in the rush to blame. Photograph: Lavandeira Jr/EPA
The driver of the train involved in Spain's worst rail disaster in almost 70 years was freed on bail on Sunday night after reportedly admitting to a judge that he had behaved recklessly.
Police on Friday formally accused 52-year-old Francisco Garz"n of manslaughter caused by recklessness.
During the closed-door hearing, Judge Luis Alez took away Garz"n's passport and ordered him to report weekly to the court, according to local media. The driver, accompanied by his lawyer, was questioned for around two hours.
The reports, citing police and judicial sources, said Garz"n had admitted reckless behaviour. But it was not clear whether the judge had laid charges against the driver or, if so, whether they were the same as those levelled by police.
Garz"n arrived at the court handcuffed and wearing dark glasses. He had a visible bruise on his forehead '' the result of a gash that he sustained in the crash and which required nine stitches.
Video evidence and passenger accounts indicate the high-speed Alvia train derailed as it hurtled into a sharp bend outside Santiago de Compostela last week. The death toll from the crash rose to 79 on Sunday after another victim died in hospital.
Garz"n was brought to court after spending a night in the cells of city's central police station. As he left hospital on Saturday, he made no response when a relative of one of the injured hurled abuse at him, according to an eyewitness account in the newspaper El Correo Gallego.
The railway drivers' union expressed concern that Garz"n had been formally accused before the extraction and analysis of data from the so-called "black boxes".
It is hoped the onboard recorders will offer clues as to why a driver known for his prudence entered the curve at more than twice the 80kph (49mph) limit.
Carla Serrano, 19, from Madrid, who survived the crash with minor injuries, said that seconds before the crash the display panel in her carriage showed the train was travelling at 210kph. Her boyfriend pointed it out to her. "I looked up and said: 'Well, yes,'" she said.
At the weekend, several colleagues and neighbours of Garz"n came forward to defend him, describing him as a responsible and cautious driver. Eladio Rodrguez, regional head of the transport sector of the socialist General Workers' Union said: "There have to be causes other than the alleged human error."
Before Garz"n testified, claims were made of delays in co-ordinating the rescue operation. The daily El Pas said it had obtained reports compiled by the emergency services that showed it took two hours to declare the state of alert needed to mobilise help from other provinces.
The inhabitants of the neighbourhood of Angrois, where the crash took place, have been widely praised in Spain for their courageous response to the disaster. Without regard for their own safety, they poured on to the tracks, smashing in the windows of the carriages with rocks to pull out the injured, dead and dying.
But the paper said their efforts were offset by official delays. A mobile communications centre, vital for co-ordinating the work of the rescue services, took 46 minutes to reach the scene, El Pas said.
The most deadly previous crash was in 1944 when up to 800 people are said to have died at Torre del Bierzo.
The days since the accident have seen the chiefs of the Spanish state rail company, Renfe, and the network operator, Adif, put the blame squarely on the driver. The view the courts take of the crash could have important financial repercussions.
Renfe is among the firms bidding for a '¬13bn contract to build a high-speed rail link in Brazil. The terms of the tender reportedly exclude firms involved in the running of high-speed train systems where an accident has taken place in the preceding five years.
Mon, 29 Jul 2013 16:17
The fatal train crash that occurred Wednesday (Jul 24) in northwestern Spain will likely disqualify Spanish state-owned railway operator Renfe from competing in Brazil's upcoming 35.6bn-real (US$15.9bn) Rio-S£o Paulo-Campinas bullet train tender.
"All bidders must submit a document stating that they have not participated in a highspeed train project which has recorded a fatal accident in the past five years, which resulted from faulty operation of the train system," the tender documents published by national ground transport agency ANTT read.
A train operated by Renfe derailed near the city of Santiago de Compostela on Wednesday, claiming the lives of 80 people and injuring another 130 passengers, as of Thursday (Jul 25) evening.
An official probe has yet to be carried out, but most likely the accident was caused by the train approaching a curve at way above the speed limit, according to early reports from local press. It is not clear yet why the train was going that fast.
Brazil's project, currently the largest railway project underway in Latin America, entails building and operating 511km of a high speed train route - also known as the EF-222 line - with stations at Campinas, S£o Paulo, Guarulhos and S£o Jos(C) dos Campos in S£o Paulo state, and Rio de Janeiro and Volta Redonda-Barra Mansa, in Rio de Janeiro state.
Spain's development minister, Ana Paster, confirmed in May that a government consortium would participate in the tender. The group, which expected Renfe to team up with railway infrastructure authority Adif and transport engineering and consultancy agency Ineco, was considered among the best placed to win the contract.
The announcement followed a December agreement between EPL and Ineco, which involved developing a macro-strategy of deploying a high speed system that included addressing technological implications and social and environmental issues.
BULLET TRAIN SPELL
Firms affiliated with China's national railway operator, China Railways, have already been disqualified due to an accident on its Yongtaiwen Railway in 2011, which resulted in over 30 fatalities.
Also, a number of other high-profile bidders such as Alstom, Bombardier, CAF, and Mitsui are being investigated for the formation of an alleged cartel. Whether this will affect their participation in the competition has not been determined.
Numerous other companies have been eyeing the project. Among them are Korea's Hyundai and Samsung, US-based Bechtel, Germany's Siemens, and Japan's Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Toshiba.
Parties interested in bidding for phase one works must deliver proposals by August 13 and bids will be opened on S£o Paulo's Bovespa stock exchange on September 19, According to the project's tender schedule.
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 04:55
FRESNO '-- When the California High-Speed Rail Authority put the first stretch of its statewide train system out for bids last year, the agency set a high technical standard for five contracting teams courting the more than $1 billion construction contract.
In March 2012, the authority's board decreed that even if all five teams submitted bids, only the three most "technically competitive" firms could compete based on the cost to build the 29-mile segment in Madera and Fresno counties. The teams with the lowest technical scores would be dropped and their price envelopes returned unopened.
That rule, however, didn't stick. In August '-- months before contractors submitted bids '-- the authority's executive staff quietly altered the process without formal action by the board.
What was touted as a rigorous, competitive procedure to ensure that only the most technically sound bids would advance instead became a "pass-fail" analysis requiring contractors to only meet "the minimum elements required" before cost would be considered for all bidders.
That change '-- seemingly minor in August '-- is taking on greater significance now as the authority negotiates with its lowest-cost bidder. The team of Tutor Perini Corp. of Sylmar, Texas-based Zachry Construction and Parsons Corp. of Pasadena bid about $985 million to build the Fresno-Madera segment. That beat the state's estimates of $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion. The consortium's bid was deemed the "apparent best value."
But Tutor Perini-Zachry-Parsons also had the lowest technical score '-- 20.55 points out of 30 '-- among the five contracting teams. Put another way, the Tutor Perini group was deemed to be the least skilled of the bidders. That has prompted speculation that the team's bid may potentially have been eliminated from consideration if the evaluation process remained unchanged, and given rise to concerns about rigging the analysis in favor of Tutor Perini.
The rail authority declined to answer specific questions from The Fresno Bee about why the agency chose to amend the bid-evaluation process. Authority spokesman Rob Wilcox said in an email that "the authority's objective was to increase transparency and gain greater value for the project and the state."
"There was a real concern that by not opening all the bids, it could have left hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on the table," he said.
"It is important to note that on Caltrans design-build projects that use best value, they also base valuations on a combination of technical score and price, and all responsive bids are opened," he added.
A contract with Tutor Perini-Zachry-Parsons could be presented to the rail authority's board for approval in June.
Rigged?In a letter to state legislative leaders, authority chief executive Jeffrey Morales rejected the notion that the change had the effect of rigging the evaluation process in favor of Tutor Perini-Zachry-Parsons. "Any suggestion or implication that decisions were made with particular bidders in mind is completely without merit and has no basis in fact," Morales wrote.
He added that it's unfair to conclude that any bidding team would be dropped from consideration under the original process "because the actual bid proposals were submitted in light of the improved evaluation process, not the preceding one," he wrote. "Bidding teams modify their proposals to reflect all terms of the (request for proposals), including the scoring and evaluation criteria."
He also asserted that the change in process did not lower the bar for technical analysis. After contractors submitted bids in January, Morales wrote, "there were two separate reviews of the technical portions, to ensure that all criteria and requirements were met and that the proposers had demonstrated full capability to deliver the project."
Only after the technical reviews were complete, he added, were the price envelopes opened.
The contractor's technical merit will be crucial because of the challenges presented by the project '-- a controversial and politically divisive effort that will be closely scrutinized because it is the first chunk of the first high-speed train system proposed in the United States.
In addition to building the railbed from Avenue 17 near Madera to American Avenue south of Fresno, the project includes a new bridge over the San Joaquin River; elevated tracks over Herndon Avenue; relocating portions of Golden State Boulevard through northwest and central Fresno; a tunnel or trench under Belmont Avenue, Highway 180 and a freight railroad line; elevated tracks above Highway 99 south of downtown Fresno; and a dozen new or rebuilt street over- or underpasses.
The winning firm will be tasked with completing the design work '-- which the rail authority and consultants had drawn to about 30 percent completion '-- and building the line.
In its March 1, 2012, decision, the authority's board voted 5-0 to issue a request for bids for the Madera-Fresno segment and to use a two-step method to assess bids. At that time, five teams of contractors including Tutor
Perini-Zachry-Parsons were "pre-qualified" to bid based on their technical capability to handle the job.
Thomas Fellenz, the authority's chief counsel, told the board that the two-step analysis would "accomplish the goals of the authority best" by securing the most technically sound bids and competitive prices.
Rigorous technical assessmentThe process called for a rigorous technical assessment of all of the bids while each firm's price remained sealed. Only the three highest-ranked proposals under the technical evaluation would be eligible to compete for cost. Among the factors considered in the technical analysis were the contractor's understanding of the project, conceptual engineering, ability to stay on schedule, solutions to anticipated problems, quality and self-certification.
"We're making it very competitive because, you know, if you're not in the top three, you'll be dropped off," Fellenz said last year.
The authority board's March 2012 vote also allowed the agency's chief executive officer "to make appropriate non-substantive changes" in consultation with board chairman Dan Richard to the terms under which contractors were to submit bids.
The revised language detailing the bid-evaluation process was tucked innocuously into an addendum to the agency's request for proposals '-- the fourth such addendum, issued Aug. 22.
Wilcox, the authority's spokesman, would not address why a process approved by the board in March was no longer suitable in August, or why the change was made without notification to or approval by the board. The agency also did not address who within the authority's leadership decided that changing the bid-screening process was "non-substantive," or disclose when Richard, the board chairman, was consulted by Morales on the amendment.
In his letter to legislators, Morales '-- who was hired in June 2012 '-- defended the change. "Notification was sent to legislative staff and members of the media" about changes throughout the bidding process, including the Aug. 22 addendum.
The August addendum and others were posted on the authority's web site. However, The Fresno Bee received no written or emailed notification of such changes, as has been routine with many other aspects of high-speed rail media relations.
Between March 2012 and January, when the contracting teams submitted their bids, the agency issued nine addenda to the original request for proposals as "bidders raised questions and concerns," Morales wrote. The changes, he added, "ranged from highly detailed technical clarifications to broader issues relating to liability and the manner in which the authority would evaluate and score the proposals."
Addendum 4, Morales said, "required the authority to open the bids from all five teams as long as each bid was technically sound." The authority would not disclose whether any of the prospective contracting teams threatened to not submit bids unless the process was changed.
Some property owners in Fresno and Madera counties will start receiving within days the first written offers from the California High-Speed Rail Authority to buy their land.
The rail agency needs to buy all or portions of more than 350 parcels to prepare for building its first 29 miles of the proposed statewide high-speed train route. Several owners of residential and commercial property between Madera and downtown Fresno will be among the first recipients of offer letters from the authority's right-of-way agents.
The agency is in negotiations with a team of construction companies to begin building the line between Avenue 17, near Madera, and American Avenue at the south edge of Fresno, in hopes of awarding a contract in June and beginning work this summer.
But the rail authority cannot begin construction, demolition or utility relocation until it owns the property.
Earlier this year, the rail authority identified about 75 parcels that it hopes to buy by the end of September, and nearly 130 parcels that it expects to need by the end of this year.
The parcels are in the path of the railroad itself or would be affected by related work, including overpasses to carry city streets and county roads over the high-speed tracks.
A land-acquisition plan provided to purchasing consultants in January indicated that the rail authority expects to buy about 100 parcels in their entirety '-- mostly smaller lots where the acreage left over from the railroad work would be practically useless. For other parcels, the authority would buy only the portions it needs for the route.
Construction is expected to take two to three years.
Sun, 28 Jul 2013 14:10
Jack was due to speak at the Black Hat conference, which starts Saturday in Las Vegas. Photograph: Isaac Brekken/AP
Barnaby Jack, a hacker who was due to present his findings on the security vulnerabilities of implanted medical devices, has died.
The San Francisco medical examiner's office said Jack, 35, died in the city on Thursday '' but did not provide details on the circumstances surrounding his death.
Jack had exposed a security flaw in insulin pumps that could be made to dispense a fatal dose by a hacker 300ft away, pushing some medical companies to review the security of these devices.
He was also a popular and respected figure in the information security scene. Within that small scene, reverse engineers are especially close, said Matthieu Suiche, a friend of Jack's and chief scientist at CloudVolumes Inc in an email. "We pretty much all know each other, or have lots of common friends," Suiche said. "It's almost like we all grew up together."
He added: "There isn't much to say except that Barnaby was one of the rare people in InfoSec who was a brilliant researcher but also a good friend to many of us."
Suiche met Jack at the Black Hat conference a few years ago and said they had been really good friends since. He said he had drinks with Jack and his girlfriend in San Francisco just over a week ago.
He called his friend "brilliant", and said Jack's latest research on medical devices could help save the lives of many people. "In this world full of people fearfully complying and worrying, very few people are crazy enough to challenge the rules, to approach life in an unconventional paradigm and to speak up to contribute to change this world," Suiche said.
Jack was due to speak at the Black Hat conference, which starts Saturday in Las Vegas. His presentation, "Implantable medical devices: hacking humans," would have explained how these devices could be compromised and would have suggested ways to improve device security.
Black Hat said the room his discussion was meant to take place will instead be used as a place for his friends and colleagues to gather and remember him on 1 August, when the session was set to take place.
Black Hat said in a statement:
We have lost a member of our family. Everyone would agree that the life and work of Barnaby Jack are legendary and irreplaceable. Barnaby had the ability to take complex technology and intricate research and make it tangible and accessible for everyone to learn and grow from. Beyond his work in our industry, Barnaby was an incredibly warm hearted and welcoming individual with a passion for celebrating life. We all have a hilarious and upbeat story about Barnaby. He is truly a shining example of what we love about this community.
Black Hat will not be replacing Barnaby's talk on Thursday, Aug. 1. No one could possibly replace him, nor would we want them to. The community needs time to process this loss. The hour will be left vacant as a time to commemorate his life and work, and we welcome our attendees to come and share in what we hope to be a celebration of his life. Barnaby Jack meant so much to so many people, and we hope this forum will offer an opportunity for us all to recognize the legacy that he leaves behind.
Our deepest sympathies go out to Barnaby Jack's family and loved ones. Words cannot adequately describe how much he will be missed, but it is certain that Barnaby will NEVER be forgotten.
At the time of his death, Jack was director of embedded security research at security firm IOActive. On Twitter, the company said: "Lost but never forgotten our beloved pirate, Barnaby Jack has passed. He was a master hacker and dear friend. Here's to you Barnes!"
Sat, 27 Jul 2013 09:13
26 July 2013Last updated at11:44 ETAn elite hacker who was due to demonstrate how heart implants could be hacked has died unexpectedly in San Francisco.
Barnaby Jack died on Thursday, the city's medical examiner's office told Reuters, but did not give more details.
He had been due to give a presentation into medical device vulnerabilities at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas taking place next week.
He had said one technique could kill a man from 30 feet (nine metres) away.
IOActive, the security firm at which Mr Jack was director of embedded devices, said it was preparing a statement.
In a tweet, the company said: "Lost but never forgotten our beloved pirate, Barnaby Jack has passed."
His sister Amberleigh Jack, who lives in New Zealand, told Reuters news agency he was 35.
Mr Jack became one of the most famous hackers on the planet after a 2010 demonstration in which he hacked a cashpoint, making it give out money. The technique was dubbed "Jackpotting".
'Social media flood'More recently, he emerged as a leading expert in the weaknesses that could be found in medical technology.
Last year, he told the BBC about how he had discovered flaws in widely-used insulin pumps which allowed him to compromise the devices.
The hack made it possible to control them and administer a fatal level of insulin, Mr Jack said.
"My purpose was not to allow anyone to be harmed by this because it is not easy to reproduce," he told the BBC during an interview in April 2012.
"But hopefully it will promote some change in these companies and get some meaningful security in these devices."
Mr Jack's expertise and vivid demonstrations of his knowledge at events like Black Hat earned him the respect of many security professionals.
Amberleigh Jack thanked those who have been posting messages of sympathy online.
"So humbled by the social media flood of people that loved @barnaby_jack," she tweeted.
"Thank you all so much for your kind words."
Sun, 28 Jul 2013 14:09
Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Backup/Recovery
McAfee has put together an elite team of researchers to investigate how to go about protecting car systems from next-generation hacking attacks.
Members of the team include Barnaby Jack, the security researcher best known for demonstrating ways that crooks can force ATMs to spit out cash and for highlighting security shortcomings in insulin pumps.
Modern cars increasingly rely on embedded processors. Security researchers have already demonstrated how these embedded systems might be hacked to generating bogus tire blowout warning messages or pull off other dangerous exploits. Attack scenarios include injecting malware using via on-board diagnostics systems, wireless connections and booby-trapped CDs.
No such attacks have ever taken place in the real world but car manufacturers and auto industry associations are already aware of the possible risk.
SAE International, a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries, has put together a number of technical papers that look into information security risks that look beyond potential concerns about hacking into electronic vehicle access systems, which have been an issue for several years.
"Vehicles include more and more electronic systems and open communication channels based on public standards, making them vulnerable to a variety of attacks," the abstract to one recent SAE technical paper explains. "Security mitigation mechanisms are implemented in software and might be supported by a controller with basic security features," it adds.
"Any cyber security breach carries certain risk," said Jack Pokrzywa, SAE's manager of ground vehicle standards, the Daily Techreports. "SAE Vehicle Electrical System Security Committee is working hard to develop specifications which will reduce that risk in the vehicle area."
Meanwhile Ford and Toyota have both recruited information security experts to look into the potential problem. Ford, for example, has hired infosec experts to make its SYNC in-vehicle communications and entertainment system more resistant against hackers and malware.
The McAfee team will be assigned to looking into much the same issues but with a slightly different mandate, geared towards developing security software and other protection technologies suitable for car-based embedded computing systems.
Bruce Snell, a McAfee executive managing the firm's research on car security, told Reuters via PCPro. "If your laptop crashes you'll have a bad day, but if your car crashes that could be life threatening.
"I don't think people need to panic now. But the future is really scary," he added. ®
Requirements Checklist for Choosing a Cloud Backup and Recovery Service Provider
Thu, 01 Aug 2013 06:19
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Tue, 23 Jul 2013 13:37
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Thu, 01 Aug 2013 11:22
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Thu, 01 Aug 2013 07:41
Security hole in current versions of the mobile operating system could allow malware to be uploaded to iOS devices via a malicious USB charger.
A security flaw in Apple's iOS 6 that could theoretically allow malware to be uploaded to iOS devices via a malicious power adapter will be patched in the next version of Apple's mobile operating system, Apple said Wednesday.
The hack, dubbed Mactrans by the three researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology who discovered the flaw, was demonstrated Wednesday at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. The trio announced in June that they had developed a proof-of-concept that showed how a malicious iPhone charger lets them hack into the mobile device running the latest version of Apple's iOS in less than one minute -- no jailbreaking required.
An Apple representative told Reuters today that the vulnerability had been repaired in the latest iOS 7 beta, which is already in developers' hands.
"We would like to thank the researchers for their valuable input," Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said.
The researchers' custom-built charger, which was built in about a week for about $45, contains a tiny Linux-based computer programmed to attack iOS devices, according to Wednesday's presentation by Billy Lau, the researcher who constructed the device. Malware uploaded to iOS devices could give access to passwords and sensitive financial information as well as communications and the device's location, Lau said.
"It can become a spying tool," Lau said.
Lau said the vulnerability doesn't affect Android devices because that operating system warns users when their device is plugged into a computer.
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 04:39
Jim Finkle, Joseph Lichterman and Christine MurrayMon Jul 29 00:59:59 UTC 2013
The Ford Escape, pictured, was one of the cars hacked by the researchers.
Car hacking is not a new field, but its secrets have long been closely guarded. That is about to change, thanks to two well-known computer software hackers who got bored finding bugs in software from Microsoft and Apple.
Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek say they will publish detailed blueprints of techniques for attacking critical systems in the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape in a 100-page white paper, following several months of research they conducted with a grant from the US government.
The two "white hats" - hackers who try to uncover software vulnerabilities before criminals can exploit them - will also release the software they built for hacking the cars at the Def Con hacking convention in Las Vegas this week.
They said they devised ways to force a Toyota Prius to brake suddenly at 80 miles an hour (128 km/h), jerk its steering wheel, or accelerate the engine. They also say they can disable the brakes of a Ford Escape traveling at very slow speeds, so that the car keeps moving no matter how hard the driver presses the pedal.
"Imagine what would happen if you were near a crowd," said Valasek, director of security intelligence at consulting firm IOActive, known for finding bugs in Microsoft's Windows software.
But it is not as scary as it may sound at first blush.
They were sitting inside the cars using laptops connected directly to the vehicles' computer networks when they did their work. So they will not be providing information on how to hack remotely into a car network, which is what would typically be needed to launch a real-world attack.
The two say they hope the data they publish will encourage other white-hat hackers to uncover more security flaws in cars so they can be fixed.
"I trust the eyes of 100 security researchers more than the eyes that are in Ford and Toyota," said Miller, a Twitter security engineer known for his research on hacking Apple's App Store.
Toyota spokesman John Hanson said the company was reviewing the work. He said the carmaker had invested heavily in electronic security, but that bugs remained - as they do in cars of other manufacturers.
"It's entirely possible to do," Hanson said, referring to the newly exposed hacks. "Absolutely we take it seriously."
Ford spokesman Craig Daitch said the company takes seriously the electronic security of its vehicles. He said the fact that Miller's and Valasek's hacking methods required them to be inside the vehicle they were trying to manipulate mitigated the risk.
"This particular attack was not performed remotely over the air, but as a highly aggressive direct physical manipulation of one vehicle over an elongated period of time, which would not be a risk to customers and any mass level," Daitch said.
Time to shore up defences
Miller and Valasek said they did not research remote attacks because that had already been done.
A group of academics described ways to infect cars using Bluetooth systems and wireless networks in 2011. But unlike Miller and Valasek, the academics have kept the details of their work a closely guarded secret, refusing even to identify the make of the car they hacked.
Their work got the attention of the US government. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has begun an auto cybersecurity research program.
"While increased use of electronic controls and connectivity is enhancing transportation safety and efficiency, it brings a new challenge of safeguarding against potential vulnerabilities," the agency said in a statement. It said it knew of no consumer incident where a vehicle was hacked.
Still, some experts believe malicious hackers may already have the ability to launch attacks.
"It's time to shore up the defences," said Tiffany Strauchs Rad, a researcher with Kaspersky Lab, who previously worked for an auto security research centre.
A group of European computer scientists had been scheduled to present research on hacking the locks of luxury vehicles, including Porsches, Audis, Bentleys and Lamborghinis, at a conference in Washington in mid-August.
But Volkswagen AG obtained a restraining order from a British high court prohibiting discussion of the research by Flavio D. Garcia of the University of Birmingham, and Roel Verdult and Baris Ege of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
A spokeswoman for the three scientists said they would pull out of the prestigious Usenix conference because of the restraining order. Both universities said they would hold off on publishing the paper, pending the resolution of litigation.
Volkswagen declined to comment.
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 04:30
EVERY day for up to ten minutes near the London Stock Exchange, someone blocks signals from the global positioning system (GPS) network of satellites. Navigation systems in cars stop working and timestamps on trades made in financial institutions can be affected. The incidents are not a cyber-attack by a foreign power, though. The most likely culprit, according to Charles Curry, whose firm Chronos Technology covertly monitors such events, is a delivery driver dodging his bosses' attempts to track him.
The signals are weak. Mr Curry likens them to a 20-watt light bulb viewed from 12,000 miles (19,300 km). And the jammers are cheap: a driver can buy a dashboard model for about £50 ($78). They are a growing menace. The bubbles of electromagnetic noise they create interfere with legitimate GPS users. They can disrupt civil aviation and kill mobile-phone signals, too. In America their sale and use is banned. In Britain they are illegal for civilians to use deliberately, but not, yet, to buy: Ofcom, a regulator, is mulling a ban. In recent years Australian officials have destroyed hundreds of jammers.
In the right (or wrong) hands, they are potential weapons. Britain's armed services test the devices in the Brecon Beacons in Wales, a military training area. North Korea uses big lorry-mounted versions to block GPS signals in South Korea. Starting with a four-day burst in August 2010, the attacks, which come from three positions inside the North, have lengthened. In early 2012 they ran for 16 days, causing 1,016 aircraft and 254 ships to report disruption.
Mr Curry worries that criminals or terrorists could knock out GPS for an entire city or shipping lane anywhere in a flash. Even without North Korean-sized contraptions, the jamming can be substantial. Suitcase-sized devices on sale on the internet claim a range of 300-1,000 metres.
Malfunctioning satellites and natural interference from solar activity have hit GPS signals and sent ships off course. David Last, a navigation expert, says an accidental power cut, perhaps caused by a jammer taken on board a car ferry, could cause a shipwreck. Generating a false signal'--spoofing'--is another threat. In December 2011 Iran said it had spoofed an American drone before capturing it (most experts dismiss the claim). So far effective spoofing seems confined to laboratories, but Mr Last says some governments are already taking countermeasures.
One solution is a different means of navigation. In April South Korea announced plans for a network of 43 eLoran (enhanced long-range navigation) ground-based radio towers, based on technology first used in the second world war. It uses a far stronger signal than GPS, and should give pilots and ships' captains a safer alternative by 2016. With Chinese and Russian help, South Korea hopes to expand coverage across the region.
Britain's General Lighthouse Authorities (GLA) are following suit with seven new eLoran stations. Martin Bransby, an engineer with the GLA, says this will replace visual navigation as the main backup for GPS. It will be working by mid-2014, and cost less than £700,000; receivers cost £2,000 per vessel. By 2019 coverage should reach all big British ports.
America's military-research agency DARPA has an experimental ''single-chip timing and inertial measurement unit'' (TIMU). When finished, according to the project's boss, Andrei Shkel, it will use tiny gyroscopes and accelerometers to track its position without using satellites or radio towers. America's White Sands missile range in New Mexico is installing a ''Non-GPS Based Positioning System'', using ground-based antennae to provide centimetre-level positioning over 2,500 square miles. In May the Canadian government said it would splash out on anti-jam upgrades for military aircraft.
A new version of the US air force's bunker-busting bomb, designed in part to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities, includes technology to prevent defenders from blocking its satellite-based guidance systems. MBDA, a European missile firm, is working on similar lines.
But for many users, GPS and other space-based navigation systems'--which include Russia's GLONASS, China's partly complete Beidou, and an as-yet unfinished project by the European Union'--remain indispensable and ubiquitous. They are also vulnerable. For those whose lives or livelihoods depend on knowing where they are, more resilient substitutes cannot come fast enough.
Mon, 29 Jul 2013 17:33
Nicholas WestActivist PostThe question of whether or not modern cars can be hacked has been answered in the wake of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of journalist Michael Hastings.
Dr. Kathleen Fisher spoke in 2012 about DARPA's High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems (HACMS) program, making it clear that all modern cars could be vulnerable to hacking and solutions need to be found.
Additional concerns are now being raised about the role GPS systems could play in making it possible to hack boats, planes and other GPS-reliant systems.
GPS tracking and positioning technology was brought to us by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Apparently, DARPA has done such a good job thoroughly embedding GPS into military applications, as well as permitting it to trickle down to "civilian devices," that it has permeated nearly all of modern life.
As stated by Arati Prabhakar, head of DARPA, "sometimes a capability is so powerful that our reliance on it, in itself, becomes a vulnerability."
As Extreme Tech reports, this vulnerability can be exploited very easily, and very cheaply:About a year ago, Todd Humphreys and his team from the University of Texas called GPS navigation into serious question. Using just a few simple pieces of equipment, a roughly $3,000 investment dwarfed by what cyber-criminals often invest in hardware, they were able to steer a small drone badly off course. It was a blunt instrument, just capable of messing with the drone's sense of direction and, potentially, sending it careening into the ground. The demonstration was so worrying that Humphreys soon found himself testifying before Congress, and sitting in meetings with everyone from the FAA to the Pentagon.
The same hole used to exploit GPS to down the drone still exists, and Humphrey's team has upped their game by further improving their capability to interfere with GPS:This week, they boarded a 210-foot super-yacht by the name of White Rose of the Drachs and used the exact same technique to leave its captain and crew stunned and helpless.
All you have to do is introduce a signal stronger than the one generated by these satellites.
With just a laptop, a small antenna, and a GPS ''spoofing'' device, the team fed a stronger signal to the yacht's steering system than the genuine one, incoming from actual GPS satellites...
This is an insidious form of attack because the ship's navigation technology will continue to report that the ship is both on course and precisely where it is supposed to be '-- even if neither of those things is true...
The team was able to steer the ship to port or starboard at will, and the crew was totally unaware that anything was wrong. Captain Andrew Schofield told Fox News he was ''gobsmacked,'' when he found out what had been done to his ship, as was the entire deck team. His $80 million baby could have easily been run into a sandbar or reef...
This spoofing attack undermines the trust these professionals put in their navigation systems. Even slightly interfering with a large amount of sea traffic could hamper trading ports, and potentially throw a wrench into large-scale economies.
The threat extends to any type of transportation that uses GPS, which of course includes planes. The same type of attack could be used to steer a plane, or planes, off course, causing mid-air collisions or worse. However, at least with boats and planes there is a possible human override. Not so with unmanned systems. In fact, drones already have been revealed as open to hacking and viruses, as Dr. Kathleen Fisher also confirmed in the video above, but apparently Congress is not sufficiently concerned to thwart the entrance of drones to American skies by 2015.Beyond drones, what about GPS-directed munitions? These are the scenarios that become worrisome at a whole different level.
Extreme Tech closes their article with a solution: "implement the P(Y)-code encryption used by military assets in a wider range of civilian technology."However, DARPA has already moved in another direction, which may indicate the increased news coverage about GPS vulnerability. Whether or not the threat is real, they are using it to explore the idea of an "autonomous chip."The world has apparently become so dependent on GPS, that mega defense contractor, Raytheon, offers the following infographic - "Imagine The World Without GPS" - to illustrate the comprehensive concern:Naturally, the original source of what has now become a problem is offering the solution. DARPA seeks to augment or perhaps eliminate the reliance on satellites altogether by establishing a new system that relies on microchips:The tiny chip holds three gyroscopes, three accelerometers and an atomic clock, which, together, work as an autonomous navigation system.
DARPA envisages using this technology to replace GPS in some contexts, especially in small-caliber ammunition or for monitoring people. (emphasis added) [Source]
The official DARPA press release entitled, "Extreme Miniaturization: Seven Devices, One Chip to Navigate Without GPS" is worth reading in its entirety as it is a perfect example of why we should never feel safe looking to the military-industrial complex for safety. Using our tax dollars, they all but admit that the GPS technology with which they have marked the world is severely compromised. And, naturally, it is that waste of money that requires us to throw more money into the solution, even as they supposedly could not have envisioned the threat from the beginning.This project might be a massive boondoggle, since it is slightly strange that the call to augment or replace GPS was publicized one year ago by DARPA, and is being openly developed. If the scenarios for creating mass havoc on the cheap are to be believed, this would not be a smart announcement to make.
It is almost certain that we will be increasingly subjected to potential scenarios designed to convince us that every "bad actor" from North Korea to Anonymous to any common low-rent terrorist is set to bring down planes, the economy, and whatever else will get us to welcome the latest round of ubiquitous surveillance and tracking technology.
Read other articles by Nicholas West Here
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Tue, 30 Jul 2013 04:27
Big Brother Weds the Nanny Who's Pregnant with Internet Censorship.Eric BlairActivist PostThe totalitarian tip-toe is tap dancing to tyranny with the proposed Internet censorship bill in the United Kingdom. In the name of keeping children safe from porn, the UK law will impose Internet filters on far more than just porn.
According to Wired:
As well as pornography, users may automatically be opted in to blocks on "violent material", "extremist related content", "anorexia and eating disorder websites" and "suicide related websites", "alcohol" and "smoking". But the list doesn't stop there. It even extends to blocking "web forums" and "esoteric material", whatever that is. "Web blocking circumvention tools" is also included, of course.
The definition of "esoteric" makes clear that censorship of broad topics is the goal of this so-called ISP filter:es·o·ter·ic [es-uh-ter-ik] adjective1. understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest;2. belonging to the select few.3. private; secret; confidential.
Translation: anything outside the acceptable mainstream narrative will be filtered. In short, the free flow of information is under assault with this law.The organization Open Rights Group refers to this totalitarian tip-toe as "sleepwalking into censorship":
What's clear here is that David Cameron wants people to sleepwalk into censorship. We know that people stick with defaults: this is part of the idea behind 'nudge theory' and 'choice architecture' that is popular with Cameron.
The implication is that filtering is good, or at least harmless, for anyone, whether adult or child. Of course, this is not true; there's not just the question of false positives for web users, but the affect on a network economy of excluding a proportion of a legitimate website's audience.
Open Rights also says the law could be used to play economic favorites, thus undermining the free market on the Internet:There comes a point that it is simply better to place your sales through Amazon and ebay, and circulate your news and promotions exclusively through Facebook and Twitter, as you know none of these will ever be filtered.
It seems Western government's voracity for Internet censorship has increased many fold since the Snowden revelations about digital spying.Direct Internet censorship was imposed on millions of U.S. government computers blocking them from viewing any material related to the Snowden leak, which at the time of the leak and even now represents a large percentage of all political and technical news stories.
And as John Naughton of the Guardian points out today, the real story about the Snowden leak that everyone is ignoring are the implications on Internet freedom, which he lists as the following:
The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered. It was always a possibility that the system would eventually be Balkanised, ie divided into a number of geographical or jurisdiction-determined subnets as societies such as China, Russia, Iran and other Islamic states decided that they needed to control how their citizens communicated. Now, Balkanisation is a certainty.
Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become very contentious. Given what we now know about how the US and its satraps have been abusing their privileged position in the global infrastructure, the idea that the western powers can be allowed to continue to control it has become untenable.
Third, as Evgeny Morozov has pointed out, the Obama administration's "internet freedom agenda" has been exposed as patronising cant. "Today," he writes, "the rhetoric of the 'internet freedom agenda' looks as trustworthy as George Bush's 'freedom agenda' after Abu Ghraib."
As a final note, porn filters already exist for parents in the private marketplace if they choose to use them. So, there is no need for governments to make them mandatory, which indicates that the real agenda behind these new proposed laws is much more about censorship than protecting children.Read other articles by Eric Blair Here
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Tue, 30 Jul 2013 11:48
Orange Safeguard is the name given to the adult content filter applied to pay-as-you-go Orange phones in the UK.
CategoriesCategories blocked by Safeguard are:
Anonymizers: These sites allow you to browse the Internet and access content anonymously.Anorexia - Bulimia: Promoting and instigating eating disorders.Gambling: Access to online gambling such as casinos and any other online services that let you place bets.Chat: Where you chat in real time to people you don't know.Bombs: Explaining how to prepare, make, build and use explosives and explosive devices.Dating: Websites for match-making where the user can meet other people - make friends, find a partner, etc.Forums: Where you're invited to take part in discussions on predetermined topics with people you don't know.Pornography: Websites with a pornographic or sexual content.Racism: Sites promoting racist behaviour based on culture, race, religion, ideology, etc.Sects: Websites on universally acknowledged sects. Within this category URLs are included on organizations that promote directly or indirectly:(i) group, animal or individual injuries,(ii) esoteric practices,(iii) content that sets a bad example for young children: that teaches or encourages children to perform harmful acts or imitate dangerous behaviour,(iv) content that creates feelings of fear, intimidation, horror, or psychological terror,(v) Incitement or depiction of harm against any individual or group based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnic, religious or national identity.Violence: Containing openly violent content and/or that promote violence or defend it.Hackers: Containing info on hacking, pirated and illegal software as well as software used for hacking.Malware: Websites containing malicious code or programs such as viruses Trojans etc.Spyware: An application that collects confidential and general information from a PC to then transmit to a third party. All this takes place without knowledge and/or consent of the user.LinksReferences'what is 18-rated content?, Orange.co.uk - via archive.org 2012-10-06
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 08:29
July 25, 2013 | Jim Killock
After brief conversations with some of the Internet Service Providers that will be implementing the UK's "pornwall" we've established a little bit about what it will be doing. To be fair, the BBC were pretty close.
The essential detail is that they will assume you want filters enabled across a wide range of content, and unless you un-tick the option, network filters will be enabled. As we've said repeatedly, it's not just about hardcore pornography.
You'll encounter something like this:
EDIT NOTE: the category examples are based on current mobile configurations and broad indications from ISPs
(1) Screen one
"Parental controls"Do you want to install / enable parental controls' yes' no
(2) Screen two [if you have left the box ticked]
Do you want to block
' pornography' violent material' extremist and terrorist related content' anorexia and eating disorder websites' suicide related websites' alcohol' smoking' web forums' esoteric material' web blocking circumvention tools
You can opt back in at any time
The precise pre-ticked options may vary from service to service.
What's clear here is that David Cameron wants people to sleepwalk into censorship. We know that people stick with defaults: this is part of the idea behind 'nudge theory' and 'choice architecture' that is popular with Cameron.
The implication is that filtering is good, or at least harmless, for anyone, whether adult or child. Of course, this is not true; there's not just the question of false positives for web users, but the affect on a network economy of excluding a proportion of a legitimate website's audience.
There comes a point that it is simply better to place your sales through Amazon and ebay, and circulate your news and promotions exclusively through Facebook and Twitter, as you know none of these will ever be filtered.
Meanwhile ISPs face the unenviable customer relations threat of increased complaints as customers who hadn't paid much attention find websites unexpectedly blocked.
Just as bad, filters installed with no thought cannot be expected to set appropriately for children of different ages.
Of course, all of this could be easily avoided by simply having an 'active choice' as the ISPs originally suggested: with no preset defaults, forcing customers to specify whether they wanted filters, or not.
It's really very surprising that Cameron's campaign has spent six months insisting on a system designed to fail consumers, threatening ISPs with legislation if they didn't use the inaccurate, error prone method that Number 10 seem to believe in.
If it all seems to work badly, at what point is it ok for ISPs to start running their own businesses, and change the setup screens?
We've launched a petition calling for David Cameron to drop his plans for default Internet filtering. Sign the petition here: https://www.openrightsgroup.org/campaigns/cameron-stop-sleepwalking
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 08:01
The British prime minister's internet filters will be about more than just hardcore pornography, according to information obtained by the Open Rights Group.
The organisation, which campaigns for digital freedoms, has spoken to some of the Internet Service Providers that will be constructing Cameron's content filters. They discovered that a host of other categories of supposedly-objectionable material may be on the block-list.
As well as pornography, users may automatically be opted in to blocks on "violent material", "extremist related content", "anorexia and eating disorder websites" and "suicide related websites", "alcohol" and "smoking". But the list doesn't stop there. It even extends to blocking "web forums" and "esoteric material", whatever that is. "Web blocking circumvention tools" is also included, of course.
Don't miss: Hardcore sex in 'Nymphomaniac' puts porn actor genitals on cast's bodies
The ORG's Jim Killock says: "What's clear here is that David Cameron wants people to sleepwalk into censorship. We know that people stick with defaults: this is part of the idea behind 'nudge theory' and 'choice architecture' that is popular with Cameron."
He adds: "The implication is that filtering is good, or at least harmless, for anyone, whether adult or child. Of course, this is not true; there's not just the question of false positives for web users, but the affect on a network economy of excluding a proportion of a legitimate website's audience."
Don't miss: Censorship and surveillance: Cameron's internet
You can find out more over at the Open Rights Group's website.
Thu, 01 Aug 2013 12:44
Edward Snowden granted temporary asylum in RussiaDEBKAfileAugust 1, 2013, 3:08 PM (GMT+02:00)
The US whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is accused of exposing US and British eavesdropping activities, has quit the transit area of Moscow airport after being holed up there for weeks. He entered the city after receiving Russian documents granting him one year's temporary asylum with ''fugitive status'' - and then dropped out of sight.
"If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom."
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Tue, 23 Jul 2013 17:14
Doug Kasputin / Reuters file
National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander speaks in Baltimore on June 27.
By Pete Williams, Justice Correspondent, NBC News
The U.S. Army general who runs the National Security Agency, in charge of the government surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden, say the disclosures and the resulting fallout have greatly distorted how they actually work and have caused some intelligence sources to dry up.
"We have concrete proof that they have already, terrorists groups and others, are taking action, making changes, and it's going to make our job tougher," said Gen. Keith Alexander, in an interview at the Aspen Security Conference in Colorado.
Alexander said it would be impossible to listen to every phone call and read every e-mail even if the government wanted to, which it does not. Consider, he said, the sheer volume '-- 114 billion e-mails, 24 billion text messages, and over 12 billion phone calls worldwide every day.
"We're a foreign intelligence agency, we don't have the technical capabilities to do that. You'd have to have AT&T's and everybody else's networks, and we don't. We couldn't compel them to listen to those phone calls. That would require a warrant and a finding of probable cause."
Alexander said the telephone and internet surveillance programs revealed in Snowden's leaks were court-approved but kept secret for a valid reason.
"The purpose of these programs, and the reason we use secrecy, is not to hide from the American people, not to hide it from you, but to hide it from those who walk among you who are trying to kill you."
Since the programs became public, the Obama administration faces growing pressure to reveal more about how the massive programs work. One gathers data on phone numbers dialed and length of calls made in the US, though not call content. The other allows the NSA to monitor overseas e-mails and Internet sites used by suspected terrorists.
Some of the world's top computer and Internet companies are urged the administration to let them disclose the number and scope of the surveillance requests they get from the NSA, information that is classified.
The federal government also faces new lawsuits brought by privacy advocates who seek to restrict the programs or to make more details about them public.
At the Aspen conference, the head of the ACLU said Edward Snowden did America a service.
"Up until Edward Snowden's revelations, the public debate was anemic. There was very little understanding about surveillance and the implications for ordinary Americans. Now it's much more robust," said Anthony Romero, the ACLU's executive director.
Mon, 29 Jul 2013 05:30
Posted by cln_Featured_, Government, Spying and Surveillance, WhistleblowerSunday, July 28th, 2013RT | Jul, 28 2013
NSA spying programs give access to US citizens' private data to low-level analysts with little court approval or supervision, says Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story on Washington's PRISM surveillance system.
''[PRISM] is an incredibly powerful and invasive tool,'' Greenwald told ABC's 'This Week.' The NSA programs are ''exactly the type that Mr. Snowden described. NSA officials are going to be testifying before the Senate on Wednesday, and I defy them to deny that these programs work exactly as I've said.''
The NSA keeps trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases which they can access anytime with simple screen programs, he said.
''And what these programs are, are very simple screens, like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address, and it does two things.''
''It searches that database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you've entered, and it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address or that IP address do in the future.''
While the program conducts wiretapping with little court approval or supervision, there are ''legal constraints'' on surveillance that require approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, in which court judges can secretly review the government's plans to track suspected terrorists in advance.
''You can't target [Americans] without going to the FISA court,'' Greenwald stressed. ''But these systems allow analysts to listen to whatever emails they want, whatever telephone calls, browsing histories, Microsoft Word documents.''
''And it's all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst,'' he added.
Greenwald will testify before a Congressional committee on Wednesday, along with NSA officials who have previously downplayed Snowden's claims about the agency's easy-access data.
PRISM is a mass electronic surveillance data mining program operated by the NSA since 2007. The program was exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden earlier this summer. Snowden leaked information about the program to the media, warning of a far greater extent of mass data collection than the public knew existed. The disclosures were published by The Guardian and The Washington Post on June 6.
Snowden later leaked further information to Greenwald which pertained to mass security operations carried out across the world. He spoke of British spy agency GCHQ, which uses the Tempora surveillance program. The whistleblower also shared information regarding Germany's cooperation with US intelligence, which reportedly combs through half a billion German phone calls, emails, and text messages on a daily basis.
The call for increased oversight and transparency for surveillance programs has been growing, even among supporters of the NSA.
''I do think that we're going to have to make some change to make things more transparent,'' Senator Saxby Chambliss, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told ABC.
Former federal judge James Robertson, who used to grant surveillance orders, said he was shocked to hear of changes to allow broader authorization of NSA programs '' such as the monitoring of US phone records. He urged for a reform which would to allow counter-arguments to be heard.
''What FISA does is not adjudication, but approval,'' Robertson said, speaking as a witness during the first public hearings into the Snowden revelations. ''This works just fine when it deals with individual applications for warrants, but the 2008 amendment has turned the FISA court into an administrative agency making rules for others to follow.''
However, government officials have defended the surveillance initiatives as authorized under law, claiming they are necessary in order to guard the country against terrorist threats.
Following Snowden's revelations on NSA surveillance, President Barack Obama assured US citizens in June that ''nobody is listening to [their] telephone calls.''
He said the surveillance programs monitor phone numbers and the durations of calls, adding that if there are any suspicions and ''if the intelligence community then actually wants to listen to a phone call, they've got to go back to a federal judge, just like they would in a criminal investigation.''
President Obama added that America is ''going to have to make some choices'' between privacy and security, warning that the highly publicized programs will make it harder to target terrorists.
Meanwhile, deputy FBI Director Sean Joyce said that the ''program is not intentionally used to target any US citizens'' and is ''key in our counter-terrorism efforts.''
Testifying on Capitol Hill before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in June, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander claimed that the NSA's storage of millions of phone records has thwarted more than 50 terror attacks in more than 20 countries since September 11, 2001. However, evidence of the prevented attacks has not been revealed
This post appeared at RT
More from RT
Thu, 01 Aug 2013 07:43
What are the implications of the latest leaks by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden? Pigstick1XKeyscore is an online surveillance tool run by America's National Security Agency (NSA) that allows analysts to search contents of chats, emails and browsing histories without warrants, according to leaked slides from CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The slides, published in The Guardian today, seem to support claims XKeyscore can search ''nearly everything a typical user does on the internet'' and in one 30-day period in 2012, collected and stored nearly 42 billion records.
The NSA slides declare some 300 terrorists were caught using XKeystroke technology by 2008.
Our experts respond below.
Philip Branch, Senior Lecturer in Telecommunications at Swinburne University of Technology
The program appears to be a datamining tool especially designed for intelligence gathering. In the same way as businesses are getting into ''big data'' in order to understand their customers, consumer trends and the like, the US intelligence community appear to have been doing much the same thing.
We know that they see a big chunk of the world's internet traffic. They have access points around the world to access other forms of electronic communication.
This program seems to be a system for scanning for markers that may identify potential terrorists. If, as they claim, it has identified 300 or more potential terrorists it would seem to have been a success.
The way it appears to work is similar to other datamining techniques. It looks at content, probably for keywords, and at metadata such as source and destination addresses, or phone numbers.
To identify potential threats it looks for anomalies. Examples given are language unusual for that region, looking for dubious material on the internet, and, very intriguingly, the use of encryption.
It appears that they have taken to heart the saying that ''if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about'' and reinterpreted it as ''if you have something to hide, perhaps you do have something we should worry about''.
One of the very interesting things is that they can identify individual devices. This is perhaps not as dramatic as might appear at first. It's well known that financial institutions have been tracking individuals for a long time. Even though IP addresses change, there is enough other information to identify most machines.
If you are using a browser, there's a lot of information about how it is configured. Often the configuration is unusual enough to identify uniquely the individual. The browser you use, the plug-ins, the cookies that are set, are all able to identify a user, in the sense that it is the same user we saw before.
So, again, the latest revelations are interesting but not necessarily unexpected. We know businesses have been using these techniques for some time. It would be remarkable if the intelligence agencies weren't.
Sean Rintel, Lecturer in Strategic Communication at University of Queensland and board member of Electronic Frontiers Australia
It is clearer now than ever that, since we can't retrospectively change these surveillance technologies, and indeed there may be valid uses of them, citizens of all countries need to stand together to demand three new kinds of digital rights.
We must have rights to personal data control. Knowing what, when, and how much of our personal data has been collected, and which agencies have access it to it.
We must have rights to transparent security institution oversight. Parliamentary and legal procedures must be in place to ensure that all searches of such data require strictly evidenced belief that a search is necessary, that searches are narrowly targeted, and that citizens have methods to access the details of such proceedings.
We must have rights to meaningful checks and responses to abuses. If there is any kind of problem with the use or integrity of data in such systems (such as overreach of searches, searches for non-security/law-enforcement purposes, data breaches) then citizens must have the right to meaningful civil and legal recourse. News website Mashable is currently running a campaign to crowdsource a digital bill of rights.
Australians should be involved in that because some of our traffic relies on US services and, as such, US laws. Australians should also engage with their political parties and civil society groups, such as Electronic Frontiers Australia (of which I am a board member) and its Citizens Not Suspects campaign.
With an election looming, now is the time for meaningful action. Whether or not one trusts our government or others, trusts security services/law enforcement or not, or believes that it is or is not reasonable to trade privacy for security, new digital rights to choice, control, and transparency will ensure our civil security.
John Lenarcic, Lecturer in Business IT and Logistics at RMIT University
The genie may already be out of the bottle with respect to privacy. Way back in 1999, the then-CEO of Sun Microsystems Scott McNealy infamously proclaimed:
You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.
The social media revolution, while diminishing privacy in some respect to users, made it the salient issue of our era. And the NSA deployment of systems such as XKeyscore has once again brought the security versus privacy debate to the fore.
But security and privacy are needs that co-exist at times in an inverse relationship to each other. If eavesdropping on telecommunications leads to terrorists being nabbed then what's the hassle, according to the NSA?
This is a NSA-brand of utilitarianism whereby the ends justifies the means. The strict (or even not so rigid) Kantians among us, though, may gasp in horror at the antics of the NSA if we believe in protecting privacy.
Indeed, this is a moral dilemma that is rapidly unfurling before our very eyes. As they say in the classics, life wasn't meant to be easy '...
James Hamlyn-Harris, Lecturer in Information & Communication Technologies at Swinburne University of Technology
We can infer from the name and the terminology used in the slides that XKeyscore is a search engine which uses search terms and filters to narrow the search field.
The more information you give it, the fewer (and more relevant) hits will be returned.
Rather than returning a specific result, it will return a ranked list of results (ranked by ''keyscore'') depending on how many search terms and filters matched each searched entry.
This means that searching for an email address (mostly unique) will return a very relevant list of entries, but searching a set of vague search terms or filters (such as traffic on this domain, between these dates, containing these words send by this user agent, or browser, with these plug-ins) will return a big list of hits ranked by relevance.
A human will look at the results and make judgements about which results are useful or actionable.
Further reading:For The Conversation's coverage on the NSA leaks and their aftermath, click here.
Sign in to Favourite2 CommentsTagsSurveillance, Cyber culture, NSA leaks
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Wed, 31 Jul 2013 21:53
Training materials for the XKeyscore program detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases and develop intelligence from the web
' Revealed: NSA program that collects 'nearly everything a user does on the internet'
Thu, 01 Aug 2013 07:10
After 16 hours of deliberation, military judge Army Col. Denise Lind convicted pfd. Bradley Manning on 19 of 21 charges for his participation in the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history. Manning was acquitted of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, but his conviction on six counts of violating the Espionage Act, five counts of theft, one count of computer fraud, and other lesser infractions, has him facing a maximum sentence of 136 years in prison. With the sentencing phase of the trial now underway, Manning is expected to be sent to prison for the rest of his life. That prospect should disappoint no one, save those who have spent the last few years casting Manning as a ''hero.''
Despite how his apologists characterize him, Manning, a mentally disturbed individual, was on the verge of being discharged from the military after only six weeks of basic training when he perpetrated his crime. He did so in order to attack his country before it showed him the door. While stationed in his first post at Fort Drum, NY, Manning was referred for mental health counseling following a number of outbursts, and an email he sent one of his superiors containing a photo of himself dressed as a woman. After being sent to Iraq, Manning's behavior remained erratic, and he was eventually demoted a rank after throwing a temper tantrum and striking a fellow soldier. After that he was sent to work in a supply room, but the damage resulting from the inexplicable maintenance of his security clearance throughout this tumultuous period had already been done. He had already sent more than 700,000 classified documents that included State Department cables, combat videos, and terror detainee assessments to the secret-sharing site, WikiLeaks.
In a series of email exchanges with California computer hacker Adrian Lamo, who eventually turned Manning over to authorities ''because it seemed incomprehensible that someone could leak that massive amount of data and not have it endanger human life,'' Manning reveled in his crime. He was less concerned with exposing alleged wrong doing than with the level of chaos he was at liberty to unleash. He attempted to impress Lamo regarding his access to a ''database of half a million events during the iraq war'' and promised him that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ''and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and finds an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format to the public[.]''
Manning also boasted about how easy it was to steal the classified information. ''I would come in with music on a CD-RW labelled with something like 'Lady Gaga' '... erase the music '... then write a compressed split file. No one suspected a thing '... [I] listened and lip-synched to Lady Gaga's Telephone while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history.''
In the courtroom, however, it was a different story. Manning's defense team, led by attorney David Coombs, made every effort to present his client as a victim. Manning was portrayed as a small-town Oklahoma boy who joined the Army with the best intentions, only to become disillusioned by alleged government misconduct that he felt compelled to share with the world. Coombs also insisted Manning was consumed by the emotional turmoil of being a gay soldier who couldn't serve openly due to the military's former ''don't ask, don't tell'' policy. Even when Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the 21 charges leveled against him earlier this year, he spoke about the need to release the classified information because the war in Iraq ''depressed'' him.
Manning's courtroom portrayal was preformed in tandem with a long campaign perpetrated primarily by the anti-military, anti-American left, for whom Manning's status as a victim of American ''evil'' made him a hero. Glenn Greenwald, who has championed a similar effort on behalf of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, referred to Manning as ''a whistle-blower acting with the noblest of motives,'' and a ''national hero.'' The city of Berkeley, CA considered passing a resolution declaring him a hero until it was tabled. The Nation's Chase Madar referred to Manning as ''patriot'' who has ''done his duty'' and ''complied with it to the letter.'' The New Statesman's Peter Tatchell called him a ''humanist and a man with a conscience.''
Manning was also the beneficiary of celebrity solidarity campaigns and an attempt to name him as the grand marshal of San Francisco's gay pride parade. A week before his conviction, the New York Times ran a full-page ad headlined, ''WE ARE BRADLEY MANNING'' that included the signatures of several well-known leftists, including Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Joan Baez, and Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. And in a testament to leftist delusion, the man who endangered countless numbers of his fellow Americans, out of sheer self-absorbed vindictiveness, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
These supporters, like Manning himself, couldn't care less about the enormous damage Manning has done. His release disclosed the names of U.S. intelligence assets, military tactics and operations, secret and sensitive diplomatic exchanges, combat videos, and terror detainee assessments, every one of which has gravely damaged America's national security. Writing for the National Review, jurist John Yoo warns that in the ''covert war against al Qaeda, a stateless enemy which conceals itself as civilians to attack innocents by surprise, intelligence is the most important weapon.'' It is a weapon Manning was more than willing to provide them.
The desire to instigate this kind of grand-scale destruction is undoubtedly what led Manning to a website whose founder, Julian Assange, has stated goal his to ''bring down many administrations that rely on concealing reality '-- including the US administration.'' Manning admitted to ''regularly monitoring'' Wikileaks beginning in November or December of 2009 and was aware that it had published hundreds of thousands of messages. It stands to reason Manning knew exactly with whom he was dealing, and what would occur with the material he sent to them.
What resulted was that America's enemies were fed precisely the kind of ammunition they need to do us harm. We will never know how many people have been put in danger because of Manning's actions. If we are lucky, we will find out after the fact, such as when Navy SEALs recovered some of the classified documents leaked by Manning when they raided Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011. This is to say nothing of the informants who might have otherwise stepped forward to help America prevent the next terrorist atrocity, but now will not do so because of the prospect that our nation's security apparatus can be so easily compromised.
And make no mistake, Manning is extremely lucky. Section 2 of Article 104, ''Aiding the Enemy'' states that anyone who knowingly gives the nation's enemies information ''directly or ''indirectly; shall suffer death or such other punishment as a court-martial or military commission may direct.'' Lind should take that reality into consideration when Manning is sentenced. He deserves nothing less than the maximum allowed by law for his perfidy.
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Sat, 27 Jul 2013 15:04
Secret demands mark escalation in Internet surveillance by the federal government through gaining access to user passwords, which are typically stored in encrypted form.
The U.S. government has demanded that major Internet companies divulge users' stored passwords, according to two industry sources familiar with these orders, which represent an escalation in surveillance techniques that has not previously been disclosed.
If the government is able to determine a person's password, which is typically stored in encrypted form, the credential could be used to log in to an account to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user. Obtaining it also would aid in deciphering encrypted devices in situations where passwords are reused.
"I've certainly seen them ask for passwords," said one Internet industry source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We push back."
A second person who has worked at a large Silicon Valley company confirmed that it received legal requests from the federal government for stored passwords. Companies "really heavily scrutinize" these requests, the person said. "There's a lot of 'over my dead body.'"
Some of the government orders demand not only a user's password but also the encryption algorithm and the so-called salt, according to a person familiar with the requests. A salt is a random string of letters or numbers used to make it more difficult to reverse the encryption process and determine the original password. Other orders demand the secret question codes often associated with user accounts.
"This is one of those unanswered legal questions: Is there any circumstance under which they could get password information?"--Jennifer Granick, Stanford University
A Microsoft spokesperson would not say whether the company has received such requests from the government. But when asked whether Microsoft would divulge passwords, salts, or algorithms, the spokesperson replied: "No, we don't, and we can't see a circumstance in which we would provide it."
Google also declined to disclose whether it had received requests for those types of data. But a spokesperson said the company has "never" turned over a user's encrypted password, and that it has a legal team that frequently pushes back against requests that are fishing expeditions or are otherwise problematic. "We take the privacy and security of our users very seriously," the spokesperson said.
A Yahoo spokeswoman would not say whether the company had received such requests. The spokeswoman said: "If we receive a request from law enforcement for a user's password, we deny such requests on the grounds that they would allow overly broad access to our users' private information. If we are required to provide information, we do so only in the strictest interpretation of what is required by law."
Apple, Facebook, AOL, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast did not respond to queries about whether they have received requests for users' passwords and how they would respond to them.
Richard Lovejoy, a director of the Opera Software subsidiary that operates FastMail, said he doesn't recall receiving any such requests but that the company still has a relatively small number of users compared with its larger rivals. Because of that, he said, "we don't get a high volume" of U.S. government demands.
The FBI declined to comment.
Some details remain unclear, including when the requests began and whether the government demands are always targeted at individuals or seek entire password database dumps. The Patriot Act has been used to demand entire database dumps of phone call logs, and critics have suggested its use is broader. "The authority of the government is essentially limitless" under that law, Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who serves on the Senate Intelligence committee, said at a Washington event this week.
Large Internet companies have resisted the government's requests by arguing that "you don't have the right to operate the account as a person," according to a person familiar with the issue. "I don't know what happens when the government goes to smaller providers and demands user passwords," the person said.
An attorney who represents Internet companies said he has not fielded government password requests, but "we've certainly had reset requests -- if you have the device in your possession, than a password reset is the easier way."
Source code to a C implementation of bcrypt, a popular algorithm used for password hashing.
(Credit: Photo by Declan McCullagh)Cracking the codesEven if the National Security Agency or the FBI successfully obtains an encrypted password, salt, and details about the algorithm used, unearthing a user's original password is hardly guaranteed. The odds of success depend in large part on two factors: the type of algorithm and the complexity of the password.
Algorithms, known as hash functions, that are viewed as suitable for scrambling stored passwords are designed to be difficult to reverse. One popular hash function called MD5, for instance, transforms the phrase "National Security Agency" into this string of seemingly random characters: 84bd1c27b26f7be85b2742817bb8d43b. Computer scientists believe that, if a hash function is well-designed, the original phrase cannot be derived from the output.
But modern computers, especially ones equipped with high-performance video cards, can test passwords scrambled with MD5 and other well-known hash algorithms at the rate of billions a second. One system using 25 Radeon-powered GPUs that was demonstrated at a conference last December tested 348 billion hashes per second, meaning it would crack a 14-character Windows XP password in six minutes.
The best practice among Silicon Valley companies is to adopt far slower hash algorithms -- designed to take a large fraction of a second to scramble a password -- that have been intentionally crafted to make it more difficult and expensive for the NSA and other attackers to test every possible combination.
One popular algorithm, used by Twitter and LinkedIn, is called bcrypt. A 2009 paper (PDF) by computer scientist Colin Percival estimated that it would cost a mere $4 to crack, in an average of one year, an 8-character bcrypt password composed only of letters. To do it in an average of one day, the hardware cost would jump to approximately $1,500.
But if a password of the same length included numbers, asterisks, punctuation marks, and other special characters, the cost-per-year leaps to $130,000. Increasing the length to any 10 characters, Percival estimated in 2009, brings the estimated cracking cost to a staggering $1.2 billion.
As computers have become more powerful, the cost of cracking bcrypt passwords has decreased. "I'd say as a rough ballpark, the current cost would be around 1/20th of the numbers I have in my paper," said Percival, who founded a company called Tarsnap Backup, which offers "online backups for the truly paranoid." Percival added that a government agency would likely use ASICs -- application-specific integrated circuits -- for password cracking because it's "the most cost-efficient -- at large scale -- approach."
While developing Tarsnap, Percival devised an algorithm called scrypt, which he estimates can make the "cost of a hardware brute-force attack" against a hashed password as much as 4,000 times greater than bcrypt.
Bcrypt was introduced (PDF) at a 1999 Usenix conference by Niels Provos, currently a distinguished engineer in Google's infrastructure group, and David Mazi¨res, an associate professor of computer science at Stanford University.
With the computers available today, "bcrypt won't pipeline very well in hardware," Mazi¨res said, so it would "still be very expensive to do widespread cracking."
Even if "the NSA is asking for access to hashed bcrypt passwords," Mazi¨res said, "that doesn't necessarily mean they are cracking them." Easier approaches, he said, include an order to extract them from the server or network when the user logs in -- which has been done before -- or installing a keylogger at the client.
Sen. Ron Wyden, who warned this week that "the authority of the government is essentially limitless" under the Patriot Act's business records provision.
(Credit: Getty Images)Questions of lawWhether the National Security Agency or FBI has the legal authority to demand that an Internet company divulge a hashed password, salt, and algorithm remains murky.
"This is one of those unanswered legal questions: Is there any circumstance under which they could get password information?" said Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society. "I don't know."
Granick said she's not aware of any precedent for an Internet company "to provide passwords, encrypted or otherwise, or password algorithms to the government -- for the government to crack passwords and use them unsupervised." If the password will be used to log in to the account, she said, that's "prospective surveillance," which would require a wiretap order or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act order.
If the government can subsequently determine the password, "there's a concern that the provider is enabling unauthorized access to the user's account if they do that," Granick said. That could, she said, raise legal issues under the Stored Communications Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University and a former federal prosecutor, disagrees. First, he said, "impersonating someone is legal" for police to do as long as they do so under under court supervision through the Wiretap Act.
Second, Kerr said, the possibility that passwords could be used to log into users' accounts is not sufficient legal grounds for a Web provider to refuse to divulge them. "I don't know how it would violate the Wiretap Act to get information lawfully only on the ground that the information might be used to commit a Wiretap violation," he said.
The Justice Department has argued in court proceedings before that it has broad legal authority to obtain passwords. In 2011, for instance, federal prosecutors sent a grand jury subpoena demanding the password that would unlock files encrypted with the TrueCrypt utility.
The Florida man who received the subpoena claimed the Fifth Amendment, which protects his right to avoid self-incrimination, allowed him to refuse the prosecutors' demand. In February 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit agreed, saying that because prosecutors could bring a criminal prosecution against him based on the contents of the decrypted files, the man "could not be compelled to decrypt the drives."
In January 2012, a federal district judge in Colorado reached the opposite conclusion, ruling that a criminal defendant could be compelled under the All Writs Act to type in the password that would unlock a Toshiba Satellite laptop.
Both of those cases, however, deal with criminal proceedings when the password holder is the target of an investigation -- and don't address when a hashed password is stored on the servers of a company that's an innocent third party.
"If you can figure out someone's password, you have the ability to reuse the account," which raises significant privacy concerns, said Seth Schoen, a senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Last updated on July 26 at 12 p.m. PT with comments from Orin Kerr. A previous update added comment from Yahoo, which responded after this article was published.
Disclosure: McCullagh is married to a Google employee not involved with this issue.
Fri, 26 Jul 2013 00:18
Generally speaking, a well-balanced retirement portfolio will consist of 35 percent stocks, 35 percent bonds, and 30 percent re-tweets of empty slogan-of-the-day hashtags from @BarackObama.
Suffice to say, a bit of mockery and criticism ensued:
The administration that has seen food stamp dependency continue to skyrocket on its watch while the median family income has dropped, all while Americans' are falling shorter on retirement savings is going to help people retire with dignity? Unfortunately ''dignity'' might be a best case scenario, because it sounds like they've given up on the middle class retiring with money.
Hello everybody --
The basic bargain of this country says that if you work hard, you can get ahead -- you can build a secure life for your family, and know that your kids will do even better someday.
But for more than a decade, that bargain has frayed, and a devastating recession made it worse.
Over the past four and a half years, America has fought its way back, laying a new foundation for more durable economic growth. But many of the challenges that faced the middle class before the recession remain. And Washington has taken its eye off the ball.
Too many people in this town are focused on scoring political points or fanning phony scandals instead of finding ways to help grow our economy, create jobs, or roll back a 30-year trend of rising inequality.
Itâs time for that to stop. Itâs time for all of us to focus on our top priority as a country, and thatâs reigniting the engine of our prosperity: a rising, thriving middle class.
Thatâs what I just said while speaking at Knox College, back home in Illinois, where I kicked off a series of speeches on what truly matters to the middle class.
If building America from the middle out is an idea you share, I need you to stand with me. Add your voice to mine.
This has been my North Star for as long as I've been in office, and it's what will shape the time that I have left in the White House.
In the weeks ahead, in towns across the country, Iâll be talking about my ideas for building on the cornerstones of middle-class security: Good jobs with good wages. An education that prepares our children and our workers for a new economy. A home to call your own. Affordable health care when you get sick. A secure retirement even if youâre not rich. A better bargain for the middle class, and for all who are striving to join it.
This is the debate we need to have. And you can join me right now.
Let the country know that you believe that America works best not when it grows from the top down, but when it grows from the middle out:
President Barack Obama
Wed, 31 Jul 2013 05:26
The Huffington Postpopularizes some McDonalds level math:
Doubling McDonald's Salaries Would Cause Your Big Mac To Cost Just 68 More: Study
McDonald's can afford to pay its workers a living wage without sacrificing any of its low menu prices, according to a new study provided to The Huffington Post by a University of Kansas researcher.
Doubling the salaries and benefits of all McDonald's employees -- from workers earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour to CEO Donald Thompson, whose 2012 compensation totaled $8.75 million -- would cause the price of a Big Mac to increase just 68 cents, from $3.99 to $4.67, University of Kansas research assistant Arnobio Morelix told HuffPost. In addition, every item on the Dollar Menu would go up by 17 cents.
And how did he come to this conclusion?
Morelix looked at McDonald's 2012 annual report and discovered that only 17.1 percent of the fast-food giant's revenue goes toward salaries and benefits. In other words, for every dollar McDonald's earns, a little more than 17 cents goes toward the income and benefits of its more than 500,000 U.S. employees.
Thus, if McDonald's executives wanted to double the salaries of all of its employees and keep profits and other expenses the same, it would need to increase prices by just 17 cents per dollar, according to Morelix.
I don't suppose we can expect Huffers to actually read the annual report in question, but here it is. And what do we glean?
From the Consolidated Statement of Income (p. 30) we see that "Payroll and Employee Benefits" came to $4,710.3 (in millions, or $4,710,300,000, which is even past A-Rod territory.) Total Revenue was $27,567 (in millions). Dividing 4,710 by 27,567 yields 17.1%, which we take to be the 17% used by Morelix.
However! McDonalds reports a net revenue from both the stores it operates and its franchise fees. The McDonalds franchisors are separate businesses which pay a fee to McDonalds Corp and are responsible for their own payroll, as is discussed in the annual report (p. 13).
So Morelix has not included the payroll figure for the franchisees in this calculation. Is that a big problem? Huge, actually. From page 11 we see that their are 6,598 outlets run directly by McDonalds Corp and 27,882 franchised outlets. Sales from franchised outlets totalled $69,687 (in million) in 2012, which far exceeds the $18,602 (mm) revenue figure for company-operated stores. That $69 billion figure is condensed down to $8.9 billion of franchise revenue on the Consolidated Statement of Income (The rest of the $27,567 MM in total revenue comes from sales at McDonalds run stores).
Which leaves us where? Doubling all the salaries at McDonalds headquarters and in their 6,598 stores would be offset by a total revenue increase of 17%, but the franchisees won't be agreeing to pay more in franchise fees and won't be raising their payroll (the size of which we haven't found in this report) in the 27,882 stores they operate.
If I were inclined to press down this road I would compare the $18 billion of revenue from McDonalds run stores with the payroll figure of $4.7 billion; that ratio is 26%. By that calculation, McDonalds would need to raise all its prices by 26% at its own stores in order to double all of its direct payroll expenses, which presumably includes a lot of non-hamburger flippers at headquarters. Hey, 17%, 26%, de nada - that is only a 50% error and it's not my money anyway!
Or from a different tack - the McDonalds-operated stores average $2.8 million in sales per store. The franchisees average $2.5 million per store, so they are on average a bit smaller but close enough that maybe we can wave our hands and pretend they are the same. That suggests that if the franchisees cost structure looks like the parent company then they can double their payroll and recoup the additional expense by raising prices by 26%.
Of course, that is a big if. And it assumes that there are no elasticities - consumers don't switch to Wendy's, franchisees don't finally buy that expensive whiz-bang machine that eliminates two jobs, and so on. One might argue that if minimum wage legislation obliged Wendy's and other fast food chains to also raise payroll costs that all of them would be obliged to raise prices and some of the consumer substitution would be mitigated. One might also wonder why McDonalds and their franchisees have been so beneficient as to forebear a 26% price increase, taking all that new revenue straight to the bottom line. Have they forgotten to be greedy, or are they already charging as much as they think consumers will pay?
Moreever, there is yet another problem. The fundamental premise is that McDonalds customers will pay more, thereby raising the living standard of the McDonalds employees. That would be fine if Mitt Romney and his sons were over-represented in the McDonalds demographic, but I bet they aren't. My guess is that working- and middle-class families make up the bulk of McDonalds customers, which means the working class and middle class will be reaching into their non-capacious pockets to elevate the lifestyle of McDonalds workers, not all of whom are themselves in the working class. I don't want to say "Voodoo economics", but a regressive 'tax' to help those with jobs may not be the path to prosperity.
Get back to me when the workers are striking at Le Bernardin. And bring the real math.
I adore this from Think Progress:
Currently, a minimum wage McDonalds employee makes $7.25 per hour. The CEO makes $8.75 million. But if the former were raised to $15 and the latter to $17.5 million, the dollar menu would only have to become the $1.17 menu and the Big Mac would go from $3.99 to $4.67, Morelix found.
If the CEO's pay remained the same but low-wage workers earned more, the price difference for customers would be negligible.
We are talking about doubling a $4.7 billion payroll but in their estimation, saving $8.75 million by not raising the CEO pay would make room for negligible price hikes. Ok.
Back in reality, if we double the CEO pay then the reported "Payroll and Employee Benefits" as shown in the annual report would rise from $4,710.3 MM to $4,719.0 MM. Not quite a rounding error.
COLOR ME SHOCKED: A HuffPo correction:
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misrepresented Arnobio Morelix as a researcher for the University of Kansas. Morelix is registered as a undergraduate student at the university, according to University of Kansas School of Business Communications Director Austin Falley.
Yup, that is what they say at the Daily Kansan. Would it be fair to say that libs will believe anything and print anything that fits The Narrative?
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 06:03
ZeroHedgeby Tyler Durden
''It's noisy, it's really hot, fast, they rush you. Sometimes you don't even get breaks. All for $7.25? It's crazy,'' is how one worker described the conditions that have caused her and the rest of America's fast-food employees to go on strike today. They demand the right to unionize and better pay '' calling for a raise in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15. Workers chanted, ''Supersize our wages,'' as spokespersons for the Fast Food Forward campaign explained the economic logic, ''If they have more money in their pockets, they'll spend it right here, helping to boost the entire economy.'' Which leaves us asking the always awkward question '' where does this new 'economy boosting' money come from for this 107% pay rise? With gas prices rising, rents soaring and many employees already reliant on food stamps and medicaid, ''I can't even order something off the menu with what I earn,'' one worker noted, ''It makes me wonder what I'm even doing there.''Indeed it does with all those benefits on offer elsewhere.
Bear in mind that the majority of new jobs created have been lower-wage jobs.
And it seems three years on that the family of four is still struggling.
Workers at McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's restaurants across New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Mo., and Flint, Mich., walked out Monday in a one-day strike to demand better pay and the right to unionize, calling for minimum wage to more than double from $7.25 to $15 an hour and the end to what activists called ''abusive labor practices.''
The workers' actions will lift up all of New York City,'' he said. ''If they have more money in their pockets, they'll spend it right here, helping to boost the entire economy.''
Doubling the minimum wage would have a ''significant effect on the private sector's ability to create jobs, especially those typically filled by first-time workers and teens,''
Glenda Soto, 35, a single mother supporting four children said that though she works full-time and often puts in 13-hour days at the Bronx McDonald's, money is a constant headache.
''My rent is going up in September,'' she said. ''We are already living paycheck to paycheck.''
The striking workers in Manhattan were joined by politicians and community leaders.
Via LA Times,
But in reaction to Monday's walkouts, the right-leaning Employment Policies Institute said that a $15 minimum wage threshold would actually pose a hardship for employees, especially in the low-margin restaurant industry.
Tight-pressed eateries forced to pay higher salaries would likely start shifting from human labor to automated technology such as touch-screen ordering or payment devices, according to the group.
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 18:30
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
July 30, 2013
One of the cornerstones of the President's plan to create a better bargain for the middle class is to ensure that every American who is willing to work for it will have the opportunity for a good job that pays good wages. In today's speech, the President laid out an idea that both parties should be able to support to create jobs: a plan that simplifies the tax code for our businesses and gives working families a better deal.
Our current tax code is broken and too complex, with businesses that play by the rules paying a 35% tax rate while many corporations that can hire hundreds of lawyers pay virtually no taxes at all. That is why the President has called for a revenue-neutral simplification of our business tax code to eliminate loopholes that encourage companies to ship jobs overseas and establishes a top tax rate of 28%. Under the President's proposal, some businesses would pay less, some corporations would pay more, but everyone would pay their fair share. But if we're going to give businesses a better deal, we should give the people who work there a better deal too. Today, the President is calling for a pro-growth tax reform and jobs package that would be fully offset using one-time revenues raised as we transition to a new business tax system. The transition revenue would support much-needed investments such as modernizing our infrastructure; creating new manufacturing hubs; and training our workers with the skills they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow. At the same time, President Obama remains committed to pursuing a long-term deficit reduction deal that includes revenue-raising individual tax reform and a balanced approach to replacing the damaging sequester.
The bottom line is that the President will work with Republicans on a package to simplify our business tax code so long as it includes real investments to help restore middle class security, create jobs and grow the economy.
Summary of the Pro-Growth Tax Reform and Jobs Package
Simplify the Tax Code for Businesses to Create Jobs and Economic Growth: The President has put forward a framework for simplifying the corporate tax code to encourage job creation here at home '' without adding a dime to the deficit:Eliminating Loopholes While Lowering the Top Rate to No Higher than 28%Simplifying Tax Filing and Increasing Incentives to Invest for Small BusinessesA Manufacturing Tax Rate No Higher Than 25%Removing Incentives to Locate OverseasA Broader Package to Support Middle Class Jobs: The President believes we can design a broader growth and jobs package without adding a penny to the deficit by, for example, using one-time funds raised as we transition to a new tax system to support investments like:Rebuilding American Infrastructure:Immediate Infrastructure Investments With a ''Fix It First'' FocusA ''Rebuild America Partnership'' to Leverage Private Sector Funds''America Fast Forward'' Bonds '' Including for Modernized SchoolsCreating 45 New Manufacturing Innovation Institutes Over 10 YearsInvesting in Community Colleges to Train Workers for Jobs of the FutureNew Executive Actions on Jobs: In addition to the package above, President Obama announced new executive actions to support jobs:Building A Competitive Edge for Foreign Investment Through An Expanded SelectUSACall to Action on Public-Private Efforts to Get the Long-Term Unemployed Back to Work Simplifying the Tax Code for Businesses to Create Jobs and Economic Growth
The President has put forward a framework for revenue-neutral business tax reform that lowers corporate tax rates and simplifies the corporate tax code to encourage job creation here at home '' without adding a dime to the deficit '' by:
Eliminating Loopholes that Send Jobs Overseas: President Obama has called for eliminating dozens of tax loopholes to ensure that every corporation pays their fair share, and reinvesting these savings to lower the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to a globally competitive 28 percent. Simplifying Tax Filing and Increasing Incentives to Invest for Small Businesses: President Obama believes tax reform should make tax filing simpler for small businesses. As part of his framework, he has proposed to allow businesses to expense up to $1 million in investments, providing them with an incentive to invest in new plants and equipment and removing a source of complexity in the tax code. Creating Good Manufacturing Jobs Here at Home: The President has called for refocusing the manufacturing deduction and using the savings to reduce the effective rate on manufacturing to no more than 25 percent, while encouraging research and development and the production of clean energy. Ensuring Every Corporation Pays In: The President believes the tax system should not give companies incentives to locate production overseas or engage in accounting games to shift profits abroad '' which is why he has put forward a minimum tax on foreign earnings. Coupling Business Tax Reform With Investments in Middle Class Jobs
President Obama believes that business tax reform is necessary to create jobs and spur investment, but that it should come as part of a broader effort to support job creation and competitiveness that benefits the middle class. By using one-time revenue raised in the transition to a new business tax system, we can support investments like modernizing our infrastructure that will make us more competitive at home. That's why the President is calling for business tax reform that is revenue-neutral over the long-term, and a one-time deficit-neutral growth package that includes measures such as:
Rebuilding American Infrastructure: The President has called for significant investments to modernize our nation's infrastructure: Immediate Investments With a ''Fix It First'' Focus: The President's plan would invest immediately in our nation's infrastructure, with an emphasis on reducing the backlog of deferred maintenance on highways, bridges, transit systems, and airports nationwide. A ''Rebuild America Partnership'' to Leverage Private Sector Investment: Combined with his plan for immediate investments, President Obama has called for new efforts to leverage private funds to rebuild our infrastructure. The President has proposed a National Infrastructure Bank, expanding the successful TIFIA program and changes to tax rules to encourage greater private investment. Encouraging Private Investment Through ''America Fast Forward'' Bonds '' Including for Modernized Schools: The President's new America Fast Forward (AFF) bonds program would build upon and expand a successful program created in the Recovery Act to attract private capital for infrastructure investments '' including additional support for bonds that finance school construction and modernization. Creating Up to 45 New Manufacturing Innovation Institutes: To support investment in U.S. manufacturers' competitiveness and accelerate innovation in manufacturing, the President has put forward an expanded proposal to create a network of manufacturing innovation institutes across the country that bring together companies, universities and community colleges, and government. Following on the initial success of a pilot institute in Youngstown, Ohio and efforts under way to launch three new institutes this year, the President is calling for Congress to create up to 45 new manufacturing innovation institutes over 10 years, tripling that number from the 15 institutes originally proposed. Investing in Community Colleges to Train Workers for Jobs of the Future: The Community College to Career Fund would invest in the nation's community colleges to train workers for good-paying jobs in high-growth and high-demand industries. The fund would help create a more skilled workforce by linking community colleges with the private sector, supporting programs that invest in apprenticeships, entrepreneurial training and on-the-job training opportunities as well as industry skill consortia that help identify and respond to pressing workforce needs. New Executive Actions to Spur Middle Class Job Growth
In addition to the items above, President Obama is calling in Chattanooga today for two executive actions to support job growth:
Building the United States Competitive Edge for Foreign Investment Through An Expanded SelectUSA: In 2011, the President launched SelectUSA, creating the first federal program to promote and facilitate U.S. investment in partnership with our states. Today, President Obama is directing his economic team and Cabinet '' particularly the Commerce and State Departments '' to put forward an unprecedented, coordinated Administration-wide effort at using our resources at home and abroad to bring new job creation to the U.S., with the goal of raising the United States to the top of the world in investment promotion efforts. The President will also host a summit bringing together business leaders from around the world on October 31st and November 1st to showcase investing in the U.S. and connecting them with state and local officials to make real progress on making the U.S. a magnet for jobs. Call to Action for the Private Sector to Work With Government on Getting the Long-Term Unemployed Back to Work: With evidence that the long-term unemployed face particular barriers in getting hired, President Obama is challenging the private sector, non-profits and government to join together in efforts to help these workers build their skills and find jobs. Later this fall, President Obama will convene CEOs and others who are joining together to put in place best practices for training, recruiting and hiring the long-term unemployed. Additional Efforts to Support Middle Class Jobs
Increasing the Minimum Wage So That No Family Who Works Full-Time Has to Raise Their Family in Poverty: After decades in which the minimum wage has eroded in value, President Obama is calling on Congress to raise the minimum wage to the level it was at the beginning of the Reagan Administration in 1981, while indexing it for inflation and raising the tipped minimum wage. Supporting U.S. Exports While Protecting Workers and Investing in Skills: As part of his commitment to increase exports and the good-paying jobs supported by exports, President Obama will work with Congress to secure Trade Promotion Authority as part of a package that ensures American workers have the support and skills they need to compete in the global economy, including through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. Strengthening America's Manufacturing Communities: To both prevent downward spirals and strengthen the ability of communities hardest hit by the recession to attract investment, the President has called for a $6 billion credit over three years so that communities that are in the process of suffering a major job loss can apply for a credit they could use to help attract new investment immediately into the community. President Obama has also created the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, proposing new funding for it through the Department of Commerce and directing Federal agencies to provide coordinated assistance to manufacturing communities to strengthen their ongoing ability to attract lasting business investment. Increasing Our Investments in Clean Energy Research: To ensure that the United States is the leader in the clean energy sector '' creating new companies and new jobs '' President Obama has proposed increasing funding for clean energy technology across all agencies by 30 percent to $7.9 billion. In addition, President Obama has proposed setting aside $2 billion over 10 years, using proceeds from Federal oil and gas development, to support research into a range of cost-effective technologies '' like advanced vehicles that run on electricity, homegrown biofuels, fuel cells, and domestically produced natural gas. Supporting Clean Natural Gas as Part of The United States' Competitive Advantage: The President's budget proposed to invest more than $40 million in research to ensure safe and responsible natural gas production. And as part of a $375 million investment in cleaner energy from fossil fuels, the President's budget includes a new $25 million prize for the first natural gas combined cycle power plant to integrate carbon capture and storage. The President's Budget also includes a tax credit to offset the incremental cost of dedicated alternative fuel trucks, covering both natural gas and electric trucks.
Mon, 29 Jul 2013 06:38
Debra McCown AP
Four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives.
by Hope Yen, AP Business Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) '-- Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.
Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.
The findings come as President Obama tries to renew his administration's emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to "rebuild ladders of opportunity" and reverse income inequality.
As nonwhites approach a numerical majority in the U.S., one question is how public programs to lift the disadvantaged should be best focused '-- on the affirmative action that historically has tried to eliminate the racial barriers seen as the major impediment to economic equality, or simply on improving socioeconomic status for all, regardless of race.
Hardship is particularly growing among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families' economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63% of whites called the economy "poor."
"I think it's going to get worse," said Irene Salyers, 52, of Buchanan County, Va., a declining coal region in Appalachia. Married and divorced three times, Salyers now helps run a fruit and vegetable stand with her boyfriend, but it doesn't generate much income. They live mostly off government disability checks.
"If you do try to go apply for a job, they're not hiring people, and they're not paying that much to even go to work," she said. Children, she said, have "nothing better to do than to get on drugs."
While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in the government's poverty data, engulfing more than 76% of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.
The gauge defines "economic insecurity" as a year or more of periodic joblessness, reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150% of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79%.
Marriage rates are in decline across all races, and the number of white mother-headed households living in poverty has risen to the level of black ones.
"It's time that America comes to understand that many of the nation's biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position," said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who specializes in race and poverty. He noted that despite continuing economic difficulties, minorities have more optimism about the future after Obama's election, while struggling whites do not.
"There is the real possibility that white alienation will increase if steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad front," Wilson said.
Nationwide, the count of America's poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15% of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession. While poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics are nearly three times higher, by absolute numbers the predominant face of the poor is white.
More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41% of the nation's destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.
Sometimes termed "the invisible poor" by demographers, lower-income whites generally are dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60% of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America's heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.
Buchanan County, in southwest Virginia, is among the nation's most destitute based on median income, with poverty hovering at 24%. The county is mostly white, as are 99% of its poor.
More than 90% of Buchanan County's inhabitants are working-class whites who lack a college degree. Higher education long has been seen there as nonessential to land a job because well-paying mining and related jobs were once in plentiful supply. These days many residents get by on odd jobs and government checks.
Salyers' daughter, Renee Adams, 28, who grew up in the region, has two children. A jobless single mother, she relies on her live-in boyfriend's disability checks to get by. Salyers says it was tough raising her own children as it is for her daughter now, and doesn't even try to speculate what awaits her grandchildren, ages 4 and 5.
Smoking a cigarette in front of the produce stand, Adams later expresses a wish that employers will look past her conviction a few years ago for distributing prescription painkillers, so she can get a job and have money to "buy the kids everything they need."
"It's pretty hard," she said. "Once the bills are paid, we might have $10 to our name."
Census figures provide an official measure of poverty, but they're only a temporary snapshot that doesn't capture the makeup of those who cycle in and out of poverty at different points in their lives. They may be suburbanites, for example, or the working poor or the laid off.
In 2011, that snapshot showed 12.6% of adults in their prime working-age years of 25-60 lived in poverty. But measured in terms of a person's lifetime risk, a much higher number '-- 4 in 10 adults '-- falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.
The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality. For instance, people ages 35-45 had a 17% risk of encountering poverty during the 1969-1989 time period; that risk increased to 23% during the 1989-2009 period. For those ages 45-55, the risk of poverty jumped from 11.8% to 17.7%.
Higher recent rates of unemployment mean the lifetime risk of experiencing economic insecurity now runs even higher: 79%, or 4 in 5 adults, by the time they turn 60.
By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76% enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.
By 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, close to 85% of all working-age adults in the U.S. will experience bouts of economic insecurity.
"Poverty is no longer an issue of 'them', it's an issue of 'us'," says Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who calculated the numbers. "Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need."
The numbers come from Rank's analysis being published by the Oxford University Press. They are supplemented with interviews and figures provided to the AP by Tom Hirschl, a professor at Cornell University; John Iceland, a sociology professor at Penn State University; the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute; the U.S. Census Bureau; and the Population Reference Bureau.
Among the findings:
'--For the first time since 1975, the number of white single-mother households living in poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade, spurred by job losses and faster rates of out-of-wedlock births among whites. White single-mother families in poverty stood at nearly 1.5 million in 2011, comparable to the number for blacks. Hispanic single-mother families in poverty trailed at 1.2 million.
'--Since 2000, the poverty rate among working-class whites has grown faster than among working-class nonwhites, rising 3 percentage points to 11% as the recession took a bigger toll among lower-wage workers. Still, poverty among working-class nonwhites remains higher, at 23%.
'--The share of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods '-- those with poverty rates of 30% or more '-- has increased to 1 in 10, putting them at higher risk of teenage pregnancy or dropping out of school. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 17% of the child population in such neighborhoods, compared with 13% in 2000, even though the overall proportion of white children in the U.S. has been declining.
The share of black children in high-poverty neighborhoods dropped from 43% to 37%, while the share of Latino children went from 38% to 39%.
'--Race disparities in health and education have narrowed generally since the 1960s. While residential segregation remains high, a typical black person now lives in a nonmajority black neighborhood for the first time. Previous studies have shown that wealth is a greater predictor of standardized test scores than race; the test-score gap between rich and low-income students is now nearly double the gap between blacks and whites.
Going back to the 1980s, never have whites been so pessimistic about their futures, according to the General Social Survey, a biannual survey conducted at the University of Chicago. Just 45% say their family will have a good chance of improving their economic position based on the way things are in America.
The divide is especially evident among those whites who self-identify as working class: 49% say they think their children will do better than them, compared with 67% of nonwhites who consider themselves working class, even though the economic plight of minorities tends to be worse.
Although they are a shrinking group, working-class whites '-- defined as those lacking a college degree '-- remain the biggest demographic bloc of the working-age population. In 2012, Election Day exit polls conducted for the AP and the television networks showed working-class whites made up 36% of the electorate, even with a notable drop in white voter turnout.
Last November, Obama won the votes of just 36% of those non-college whites, the worst performance of any Democratic nominee among that group since Republican Ronald Reagan's 1984 landslide victory over Walter Mondale.
Some Democratic analysts have urged renewed efforts to bring working-class whites into the political fold, calling them a potential "decisive swing voter group" if minority and youth turnout level off in future elections. "In 2016, GOP messaging will be far more focused on expressing concern for 'the middle class' and 'average Americans,'" Andrew Levison and Ruy Teixeira wrote recently in The New Republic.
"They don't trust big government, but it doesn't mean they want no government," says Republican pollster Ed Goeas, who agrees that working-class whites will remain an important electoral group. His research found that many of them would support anti-poverty programs if focused broadly on job training and infrastructure investment. This past week, Obama pledged anew to help manufacturers bring jobs back to America and to create jobs in the energy sectors of wind, solar and natural gas.
"They feel that politicians are giving attention to other people and not them," Goeas said.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Tue, 23 Jul 2013 17:09
You thought Atlas Shrugged was fiction?
Look at this description of Detroit from today's Observer:
What isn't dumped is stolen. Factories and homes have largely been stripped of anything of value, so thieves now target cars' catalytic converters. Illiteracy runs at around 47%; half the adults in some areas are unemployed. In many neighbourhoods, the only sign of activity is a slow trudge to the liquor store.
Now have a look at the uncannily prophetic description of Starnesville, a Mid-Western town in Ayn Rand's dystopian novel, Atlas Shrugged. Starnesville had been home to the great Twentieth Century Motor Company, but declined as a result of socialism:
A few houses still stood within the skeleton of what had once been an industrial town. Everything that could move, had moved away; but some human beings had remained. The empty structures were vertical rubble; they had been eaten, not by time, but by men: boards torn out at random, missing patches of roofs, holes left in gutted cellars. It looked as if blind hands had seized whatever fitted the need of the moment, with no concept of remaining in existence the next morning. The inhabited houses were scattered at random among the ruins; the smoke of their chimneys was the only movement visible in town. A shell of concrete, which had been a schoolhouse, stood on the outskirts; it looked like a skull, with the empty sockets of glassless windows, with a few strands of hair still clinging to it, in the shape of broken wires.
Beyond the town, on a distant hill, stood the factory of the Twentieth Century Motor Company. Its walls, roof lines and smokestacks looked trim, impregnable like a fortress. It would have seemed intact but for a silver water tank: the water tank was tipped sidewise.
They saw no trace of a road to the factory in the tangled miles of trees and hillsides. They drove to the door of the first house in sight that showed a feeble signal of rising smoke. The door was open. An old woman came shuffling out at the sound of the motor. She was bent and swollen, barefooted, dressed in a garment of flour sacking. She looked at the car without astonishment, without curiosity; it was the blank stare of a being who had lost the capacity to feel anything but exhaustion.
''Can you tell me the way to the factory?'' asked Rearden.
The woman did not answer at once; she looked as if she would be unable to speak English. ''What factory?'' she asked.
Rearden pointed. ''That one.''
Now here's the really extraordinary thing. When Ayn Rand published those words in 1957, Detroit was, on most measures, the city with the highest per capita GDP in the United States.
The real-life Starnesville, like the fictional one, decayed slowly, then collapsed quickly. I spent a couple of weeks in Detroit in 1991. The city was still functioning more or less normally, but the early signs of decomposition were visible. The man I was staying withn, a cousin of my British travelling companion, ran a bar and restaurant. He seemed to my teenage eyes to be the embodiment of the American dream: he had never been to college, but got on briskly and uncomplainingly with building a successful enterprise. Still, he was worried. He was, he told me, one of a shrinking number of taxpayers sustaining more and more dependents. Maybe now, he felt, was the time to sell up, while business was still good.
He wasn't alone. The population of Motown has fallen from two million to 700,000, and once prosperous neighbourhoods have become derelict. Seventy six thousand homes have been abandoned; estate agents are unable to shift three-bedroom houses for a dollar.
The Observer, naturally, quotes a native complaining that 'capitalism has failed us,' but capitalism is the one thing the place desperately needs. Detroit has been under Leftist administrations for half a century. It has spent too much and borrowed too much, driving away business and becoming a tool of the government unions.
Of Detroit's $11 billion debt, $9 billion is accounted for by public sector salaries and pensions. Under the mountain of accumulated obligations, the money going into, say, the emergency services is not providing services but pensions. Result? It takes the police an hour to respond to a 911 call and two thirds of ambulances can't be driven. This is a failure, not of the private sector, but of the state. And, even now, the state is fighting to look after its clients: a court struck down the bankruptcy application on grounds that 'will lessen the pension benefits of public employees'.
Which brings us to the scariest thing of all. Detroit could all too easily be a forerunner for the rest of the United States. As Mark Steyn puts it in the National Review:
Like Detroit, America has unfunded liabilities, to the tune of $220 trillion, according to the economist Laurence Kotlikoff. Like Detroit, it's cosseting the government class and expanding the dependency class, to the point where its bipartisan ''immigration reform'' actively recruits 50''60 million low-skilled chain migrants. Like Detroit, America's governing institutions are increasingly the corrupt enforcers of a one-party state '-- the IRS and Eric Holder's amusingly misnamed Department of Justice being only the most obvious examples. Like Detroit, America is bifurcating into the class of ''community organizers'' and the unfortunate denizens of the communities so organized.
Oh dear. No wonder the president would rather talk about Trayvon Martin. If you want to see Obamanomics taken to its conclusion, look at Starnesville. And tremble.
Tue, 23 Jul 2013 17:00
Mail delivery to the doorstep may be a thing of the past as lawmakers consider ways to cut costs to save the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service, which lost $16 billion in 2012.According to CNN Money, the agency is working toward a more "centralized delivery" approach in which residents pick up their mail from a mailbox at the curb or at clusters of mailboxes within their neighborhoods.
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The practice already is being adopted for new houses and developments, and some House Republicans want it rolled out universally.
"A balanced approach to saving the Postal Service means allowing USPS to adapt to America's changing use of mail," said Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican leading the House effort to save the Postal Service.
Doing away with doorstep delivery has become a central part of Issa's proposal to save money. Ending door-to-door deliveries would save $4.5 billion a year from the $30 billion the mail service currently spends on delivery.
How? Right now, 35 million residences and businesses get mail delivered to their doorstep. CNN reports that it costs $353 per stop for a delivery in most American cities, taking into account such things as salaries and cost of transport.
Curbside-mailbox delivery costs $224, and cluster boxes cost $160, according to a report from the Postal Service Office of Inspector General cited by CNN.
In addition to the $16 billion lost by the agency last year, it twice defaulted on payments owed to the federal government to prefund retiree healthcare benefits totaling $11 billion. The agency also has exhausted a $15 billion line of credit from the U.S. Treasury.
Nevertheless, the plan has received criticism from unions, which say it would be disruptive for the elderly and disabled, and from otehrs who claim it would be inconvenient and possibly unsafe.
"It's madness," Jim Sauber, chief of staff for the National Association of Letter Carriers, told CNN. "The idea that somebody is going to walk down to their mailbox in Buffalo, N.Y., in the winter snow to get their mail is just crazy."
Others, such as industry groups, support the idea as an alternative to the proposal of cutting Saturday service, which the service floated earlier this year before reversing the decision.
Editor's Note:Should ObamaCare Be Repealed? Vote in Urgent National Poll
The Postal Service also continues to struggle with mail volume, especially drops in first-class mail, its big revenue driver, as more Americans move to electronic bill-pay and e-mail. To many critics, the service has become little more than a junk-mail delivery service.
(C) 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
Sat, 27 Jul 2013 18:05
Change.gov, the website created by the Obama transition team in 2008, has effectively disappeared sometime over the last month.
While the front splash page for Change.gov has linked to the main White House website for years, until recently, you could still continue on to see the materials and agenda laid out by the administration. This was a particularly helpful resource for those looking to compare Obama's performance in office against his vision for reform, laid out in detail on Change.gov.
According to the Internet Archive, the last time that content (beyond the splash page) was available was June 8th -- last month.
Why the change?
Here's one possibility, from the administration's ethics agenda:
Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.
It may be that Obama's description of the importance of whistleblowers went from being an artifact of his campaign to a political liability. It wouldn't be the first time administration positions disappear from the internet when they become inconvenient descriptions of their assurances.
Obama's vision for lobbying transparency has similarly been discarded along the way, but the timing here suggests that the heat on Obama's whistleblower prosecutions has led the administration to unceremoniously remove their previous positions.
Sat, 27 Jul 2013 18:07
President Barack Obama has nominated one of his top fundraisers to serve as the next ambassador to Denmark. Rufus Gifford, who most recently served as finance chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, raised millions for Obama's two presidential runs, especially among the gay community, where he and his former partner were dubbed ''Obama's Gay Gold Mine'' in 2008. If confirmed by the Senate, Gifford would succeed Laurie Fulton, who served in Copenhagen from 2009 to 2012.
Born circa 1974 in the Boston area, Gifford grew up in a wealthy home, son of banker Chad Gifford, who ran some of Boston's biggest financial institutions, including the Bank of Boston. After graduating St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, in 1992, Gifford earned a double major in American Civilization and Theater at Brown University in 1996, where he was a classmate of Alexandra Kerry, daughter of another St. Paul's alumnus, John Kerry, who at the time was the junior Senator from Massachusetts.
Moving west to work in the movie industry, from 1998 to 2004 Gifford was creative executive for Davis Entertainment, an independent film company in Los Angeles. Although some of his films were commercially successful, many were panned by critics. His credits include Dr. Doolittle 2 with Eddie Murphy, First Daughter with Katie Holmes, and Life or Something Like It with Angelina Jolie.
Growing discontented with his work, in 2003 Gifford got in touch with classmate Alexandra Kerry and did some ''low level'' finance work for John Kerry during the 2004 presidential primaries. After Kerry won the nomination, Gifford quit Hollywood and went to work for Kerry as deputy finance director for the western region, where he supervised the raising of more than $30 million.
Gifford worked as a political consultant in California from 2004 to 2008, signing on to work for Barack Obama in 2007. Since that time, he has held a series of job titles focused on fundraising. Together with his romantic partner of the time, Jeremy Barnard, Gifford raised almost $80 million from California for the Obama's presidential campaign, the largest amount from any state.
From 2008 to 2009, he was the California finance director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, from 2009 to 2011 Gifford was finance director for the Democratic National Committee, and he was finance director for Obama for America from 2011 to 2012.
Gifford is a federal club member of the Human Rights Campaign and a partner in conservation for the World Wildlife Fund.
To Learn More:
Banker's Son Mines Gold for Obama (by Donovan Slack, Boston Globe)
Rufus Gifford: The Man Behind Obama's Historic Fundraising Machine (by Jennifer Bendery, Huffington Post)
Obama fundraising director said to be headed to Denmark (by Al Kamen, Washington Post)
Thu, 01 Aug 2013 07:34
July 31st, 2013
(CNN) '' July 31st, 2013 ''
Government Report: TSA Corruption, Misconduct SoaringMcDonald's Sued by Employee Over Debit Card Wage FeesFAA puts no-fly zone over Arkansas oil spill with Exxon employee in chargeAlex Jones Calls for Gun Control on Oathbreakers to the Constitutional Republic!Teenager Faces 20 Years in Prison for Rap Video #N3Employee Bonus: Teens Working For Monsanto Sprayed by Crop DusterDown The Rabbit Hole with Popeye '' Iraq '' 10 Years of War and Bloodshed''He Was Controlled By FBI For 3 To 5 Years! They Were Controlling EVERY STEP OF HIM!'' MotherTags: TSA employeeThis entry was posted on Wednesday, July 31st, 2013 at 10:35 pm and is filed under Dictatorship, Education/Mind Control, Fascism, Film/Video, Martial Law/Police State, NWO. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
Thu, 01 Aug 2013 07:25
The Economic Collapseby Michael Snyder
There is one vitally important number that everyone needs to be watching right now, and it doesn't have anything to do with unemployment, inflation or housing. If this number gets too high, it will collapse the entire U.S. financial system. The number that I am talking about is the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries. When that number goes up, long-term interest rates all across the financial system start increasing. When long-term interest rates rise, it becomes more expensive for the federal government to borrow money, it becomes more expensive for state and local governments to borrow money, existing bonds lose value and bond investors lose a lot of money, mortgage rates go up and monthly payments on new mortgages rise, and interest rates throughout the entire economy go up and this causes economic activity to slow down. On top of everything else, there are more than 440 trillion dollars worth of interest rate derivatives sitting out there, and rapidly rising interest rates could cause that gigantic time bomb to go off and implode our entire financial system. We are living in the midst of the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, and the only way that the game can continue is for interest rates to stay super low. Unfortunately, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has started to rise, and many experts are projecting that it is going to continue to rise.
On August 2nd of last year, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries was just 1.48%, and our entire debt-based economy was basking in the glow of ultra-low interest rates. But now things are rapidly changing. On Wednesday, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries hit 2.70% before falling back to 2.58% on ''good news'' from the Federal Reserve.
Historically speaking, rates are still super low, but what is alarming is that it looks like we hit a ''bottom'' last year and that interest rates are only going to go up from here. In fact, according to CNBC many experts believe that we will soon be pushing up toward the 3 percent mark'...
Round numbers like 1,700 on the S&P 500 are well and good, but savvy traders have their minds on another integer: 2.75 percent
That was the high for the 10-year yield this year, and traders say yields are bound to go back to that level. The one overhanging question is how stocks will react when they see that number.
''If we start to push up to new highs on the 10-year yield so that's the 2.75 level'--I think you'd probably see a bit of anxiety creep back into the marketplace,'' Bank of America Merrill Lynch's head of global technical strategy, MacNeil Curry, told ''Futures Now'' on Tuesday.
And Curry sees yields getting back to that level in the short term, and then some. ''In the next couple of weeks to two months or so I think we've got a push coming up to the 2.85, 2.95 zone,'' he said.
This rise in interest rates has been expected for a very long time '' it is just that nobody knew exactly when it would happen. Now that it has begun, nobody is quite sure how high interest rates will eventually go. For some very interesting technical analysis, I encourage everyone to check out an article by Peter Brandt that you can find right here.
And all of this is very bad news for stocks. The chart below was created by Chartist Friend from Pittsburgh, and it shows that stock prices have generally risen as the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has steadily declined over the past 30 years'...
When interest rates go down, that spurs economic activity, and that is good for stock prices.
So when interest rates start going up rapidly, that is not a good thing for the stock market at all.
The Federal Reserve has tried to keep long-term interest rates down by wildly printing money and buying bonds, and even the suggestion that the Fed may eventually ''taper'' quantitative easing caused the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries to absolutely soar a few weeks ago.
So the Fed has backed off on the ''taper'' talk for now, but what happens if the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries continues to rise even with the wild money printing that the Fed has been doing?
At that point, the Fed would begin to totally lose control over the situation. And if that happens, Bill Fleckenstein told King World News the other day that he believes that we could see the stock market suddenly plunge by 25 percent'...
Let's say Ben (Bernanke) comes out tomorrow and says, 'We are not going to taper.' But let's just say the bond market trades down anyway, and the next thing you know we go through the recent highs and a month from now the 10-Year is at 3%. And people start to realize they are not even tapering and the bond market is backed up'....
They will say, 'Why is this happening?' Then they may realize the bond market is discounting the inflation we already have.
At some point the bond markets are going to say, 'We are not comfortable with these policies.' Obviously you can't print money forever or no emerging country would ever have gone broke. So the bond market starts to back up and the economy gets worse than it is now because rates are rising. So the Fed says, 'We can't have this,' and they decide to print more (money) and the bond market backs up (even more).
All of the sudden it becomes clear that money printing not only isn't the solution, but it's the problem. Well, with rates going from where they are to 3%+ on the 10-Year, one of these days the S&P futures are going to get destroyed. And if the computers ever get loose on the downside the market could break 25% in three days.
And as I have written about previously, we have seen a huge spike in margin debt in recent months, and this could make it even easier for a stock market collapse to happen. A recent note from Deutsche Bank explained precisely why margin debt is so dangerous'...
Margin debt can be described as a tool used by stock speculators to borrow money from brokerages to buy more stock than they could otherwise afford on their own. These loans are collateralized by stock holdings, so when the market goes south, investors are either required to inject more cash/assets or become forced to sell immediately to pay off their loans '' sometimes leading to mass pullouts or crashes.
But of much greater concern than a stock market crash is the 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives bubble that could implode if interest rates continue to rise rapidly.
Deutsche Bank is the largest bank in Europe, and at this point they have 55.6 trillion euros of total exposure to derivatives.
But the GDP of the entire nation of Germany is only about 2.7 trillion euros for a whole year.
We are facing a similar situation in the United States. Our GDP for 2013 will be somewhere between 15 and 16 trillion dollars, but many of our big banks have exposure to derivatives that absolutely dwarfs our GDP. The following numbers come from one of my previous articles entitled ''The Coming Derivatives Panic That Will Destroy Global Financial Markets'''...
Total Assets: $1,812,837,000,000 (just over 1.8 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $69,238,349,000,000 (more than 69 trillion dollars)
Total Assets: $1,347,841,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $52,150,970,000,000 (more than 52 trillion dollars)
Bank Of America
Total Assets: $1,445,093,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $44,405,372,000,000 (more than 44 trillion dollars)
Total Assets: $114,693,000,000 (a bit more than 114 billion dollars '' yes, you read that correctly)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $41,580,395,000,000 (more than 41 trillion dollars)
That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 362 times greater than their total assets.
And remember, the biggest chunk of those derivatives contracts is made up of interest rate derivatives.
Just imagine what would happen if a life insurance company wrote millions upon millions of life insurance contracts and then everyone suddenly died.
What would happen to that life insurance company?
It would go completely broke of course.
Well, that is what our major banks are facing today.
They have written trillions upon trillions of dollars worth of interest rate derivatives contracts, and they are betting that interest rates will not go up rapidly.
But what if they do?
And the truth is that interest rates have a whole lot of room to go up. The chart below shows how the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has moved over the past couple of decades'...
As you can see, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries was hovering around the 6 percent mark back in the year 2000.
Back in 1990, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries hovered between 8 and 9 percent.
If we return to ''normal'' levels, our financial system will implode. There is no way that our debt-addicted system would be able to handle it.
So watch the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries very carefully. It is the most important number in the entire U.S. economy.
If that number gets too high, the game is over.
Via The Economic Collapse
Thu, 01 Aug 2013 06:43
Futuristic film Robocop was set in a crime-ridden and dangerous DetroitWriter Ed Neumeirer scribbled 'the future left Detroit behind' on the scriptHis note proved to be an accurate depiction of modern-day DetroitCity has filed the biggest municipal bankruptcy in American history with debts of around $18 billion earlier this monthBy Suzannah Hills
PUBLISHED: 04:04 EST, 26 July 2013 | UPDATED: 09:34 EST, 26 July 2013
In the futuristic 1987 film Robocop it was depicted as a crime-ridden city left in ruins after years of financial decline.
The film's writer Ed Neumeirer scribbled 'the future left Detroit behind' on the first page of the script to sum up the city where the story is set.
Little did he know, his prophetic note would become an apt description of modern-day Detroit after the city filed the biggest municipal bankruptcy in American history with debts of around $18 billion earlier this month.
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On the brink: The 1987 film Robocop, pictured, written by Ed Neumeirer is set in a futuristic crime-ridden Detroit on the verge of financial collapse
Modern-day Detroit: Graffiti decorates the ruins of the Packard Automotive Plant - a 35 acre site where luxury cars were manufactured until the 1950s
Robocop trailer: Did film predict the fall of Detroit?
Mr Neumeier says Robocop, the story of a terminally-wounded officer who returns to the force as a powerful cyborg to police the city's crime-ridden streets, is a metaphor showing the 'industrial decline in America'.
He insisted on Detroit being the setting for the film as it has always been very dependent on a single industry - car manufacturing which led to the city being dubbed 'Motor City' or 'Motown' because of this.
But the decline of the industry in the 1980s, when Japan emerged as new rival in the automotive world, started to have a major impact on the city's prosperity.
Mr Neumeier told CNN: 'The reason Detroit is important is because it's facing an economic blight that you can imagine happening in a lot of places.
Decline: Buildings in what was once Detroit's prime business district sit largely abandoned after the city's population shrunk to 700,000
The abandoned Fisher Body Plant in Detroit - the cradle of the automobile assembly line and a symbol of industrial might - after the city filed the biggest municipal bankruptcy in American history after decades of decline
'In retrospect, the idea of "RoboCop" really goes back to the car industry. The sculpture of it is very much Detroit road-iron. Having grown up in the sixties when the muscle car was so prominent, the notion of cars was very important to me then and ultimately to the formation of RoboCop.'
Looking to the future: Writer Ed Neumeier wrote 'the future left Detroit behind' on the first page of the Robocop script - which proved to be an accurate prediction of what would happen to the city
The U.S. government bailed out the automotive industry to the tune of $80 billion between 2008 and 2010 but that has done little to stop the financial decline in Detroit.
It has an unemployment rate of 16 per cent of its 700,000 population as the number of jobs in the automotive industry continue to decline.
Detroit was also been named the most dangerous city in America in 2012 by Forbes magazine and the most miserable in 2013.
Those living in the city face major cuts to public services under debt restructuring proposals.
The city's current plight shares striking similarities with the future Detroit portrayed in Robocop.
In the film, Detroit is reliant upon a multinational corporation, called Omni Consumer Products (OCP), which runs everything from hospitals to its police force.
Mr Neumeier believes that private companies are playing an ever increasing role in all areas of our lives - just like in Robocop.
He said: 'We are now living in the world that I was proposing in RoboCop. We are increasingly asking corporations to do these things for us... to provide human services. But their objectives are different to public service needs.'
Ironically, with a cheap and educated labour force, Mr Neumeier adds that Detroit is in need of a modernisation and advancement - making it the ideal place to start a robotics company.
He added: 'There is a cheap and educated labor force. Some kind of high-tech would be good for them... I would say with the industrial and mechanical legacy there, somebody should start a robotics company.'
Ruins: There are believed to be around 30,000 homes that need to be demolished in Detroit after decades of decline left it too poor to pay billions of dollars owed bondholders, retired cops and current city workers
Run down: A 'Neighborhood Watch' sign stands in front of dilapidated houses on Mackay Street in Detroit
Similarities: Robocop, about a wounded officer who is brought back as a cyborg to police Detroit's streets, proved to be an accurate prediction of the financial future of the city
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Thu, 01 Aug 2013 06:39
"Once the very symbol of American industrial might, Detroit became the biggest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy... its finances ravaged and its neighborhoods hollowed out by a long, slow decline...Homicide rate in the city of Detroit continued a grim upward trend ... hitting its highest peak in nearly two decades... Detroit's high crime rate is spurring 40 percent of the city's residents to plan to leave within the next five years, ... The Detroit Police Department has made national headlines as it combats a growing murder rate, pay cuts ..."
The above was not taken from the movie. They're from actual news articles on the web. The plot of the movie was "In the near future, Detroit, Michigan is on the verge of collapse due to financial ruin and unchecked crime."
Now check this out,Here's a picture of Kevyn Orr, the actual emergency manager for Detroit's bankruptcy:http://s.wsj.net/public/resources/im...0717164009.jpg
And here's a picture of the mayor of Detroit from the movie who dealt with the city's debt: http://images.wikia.com/robocop/imag...arvinKuzak.jpg
Now, unlike the movie, I don't see some 1980's Mega-corporation (like Omni-Consumer Products in the film) purchasing Detroit at a bargain basement price and privatizing the municipal services like the police department, etc.
But, you may see public employees with no pensions, benefits, etc. going on strike
So, residents of Detroit: Get out your .50 Cal Barretts and settle in for the long period of lawlessness
Well, I'm going to sit down and watch my favorite show...robocop-dollar.jpg
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 05:46
The US Senate confirms James B. Comey as FBI directorDEBKAfileJuly 30, 2013, 7:56 AM (GMT+02:00)
He was confirmed by an overwhelming majority vote. Up for confirmation next was Samantha Power as US ambassador to the United Nations.
Mon, 29 Jul 2013 04:20
In a major national security speech this spring, President Obama said again and again that the U.S. is at war with ''Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces.''
So who exactly are those associated forces? It's a secret.
At a hearing in May, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked the Defense Department to provide him with a current list of Al Qaeda affiliates.
The Pentagon responded '' but Levin's office told ProPublica they aren't allowed to share it. Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for Levin, would say only that the department's ''answer included the information requested.''
A Pentagon spokesman told ProPublica that revealing such a list could cause ''serious damage to national security.''
''Because elements that might be considered 'associated forces' can build credibility by being listed as such by the United States, we have classified the list,'' said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Jim Gregory. ''We cannot afford to inflate these organizations that rely on violent extremist ideology to strengthen their ranks.''
It's not an abstract question: U.S. drone strikes and other actions frequently target ''associated forces,'' as has been the case with dozens of strikes against an Al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen.
During the May hearing, Michael Sheehan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, said he was ''not sure there is a list per se.'' Describing terrorist groups as ''murky'' and ''shifting,'' he said, ''it would be difficult for the Congress to get involved in trying to track the designation of which are the affiliate forces'' of Al Qaeda.
Sheehan said that by the Pentagon's standard, ''sympathy is not enough'.... it has to be an organized group and that group has to be in co-belligerent status with Al Qaeda operating against the United States.''
The White House tied Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ''elements'' of Al Shabaab in Somalia to Al Qaeda in a recent report to Congress on military actions. But the report also included a classified annex.
Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law who served as a legal counsel during the Bush administration and has writtenon this question at length, told ProPublica that the Pentagon's reasoning for keeping the affiliates secret seems weak. ''If the organizations are 'inflated' enough to be targeted with military force, why cannot they be mentioned publicly?'' Goldsmith said. He added that there is ''a countervailing very important interest in the public knowing who the government is fighting against in its name."
The law underpinning the U.S. war against Al Qaeda is known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, and it was passed one week after the 9/11 attacks. It doesn't actually include the words ''associated forces,'' though courts and Congress have endorsed the phrase.
As we explained earlier this year, the emergence of new or more loosely-aligned terrorist groups has legal scholars wondering how effectively the U.S. will be able to ''shoehorn'' them into the AUMF. During the May hearing, many lawmakers expressed concern about the Pentagon's capacious reading of the law. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., described it as a ''carte blanche.''
Obama, in his May speech, said he looked forward ''to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF's mandate.'' But he didn't give a timeframe. On Wednesday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., introduced an amendment that would sunset the law at the end of 2014, to coincide with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. It was voted down the same day, 185 to 236.
The AUMF isn't the only thing the government relies on to take military action. In speeches and interviews Obama administration officials also bring up the president's constitutional power to defend the country, even without congressional authorization.
Also on HuffPost:
Sun, 28 Jul 2013 15:09
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Tue, 30 Jul 2013 06:05
The city of Philadelphia is the latest of a series of U.S. municipalities, following Houston a week ago, to sue some of the world's biggest banks for financial losses incurred in the Libor interest-rate rigging scandal.
Philadelphia sued nine banks and several subsidiaries on Friday in Pennsylvania Federal Court, seeking punitive and other damages and claiming that the banks' behavior ''was nothing short of naked price-fixing''.
Other local governments '' including Baltimore, and the California counties of San Diego and Sacramento '' have also sued in connection with the scandal over manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor.
The governments say that rate swap agreements that cities use to hedge borrowing costs were manipulated by the financial institutions to their own advantage.
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 05:46
The US Senate confirms James B. Comey as FBI directorDEBKAfileJuly 30, 2013, 7:56 AM (GMT+02:00)
He was confirmed by an overwhelming majority vote. Up for confirmation next was Samantha Power as US ambassador to the United Nations.
Thu, 25 Jul 2013 15:49
What always makes me laugh in a vaguely nervous way is when I hear soundbites/watch videos/read interviews with the Wanksters, where they claim that all their derivative debts ''are netted''.
Let me explain something here. Not even Lloyd Blankfein with a direct feed from Jehovah has the faintest bloody clue whether his 103 times leveraged Goldin Sacks is netted with a Chinese takeaway or an Aussie saltwater crocodile.
In the last 24 hours, it has begun to be apparent that several eurozone banks have large exposures to the Detroit collapse, through complex certificates of participation. The startlingly unlovely UBS sold such certificates over a long period '' up to a total of around one and a half billion dollars. Most of this sub-sub prime bogpaper ended up with European banks, all of whom of course knew what they were doing. Not.
One particular trail involves Hypo-Real Estate, stranded with $200m of this bollocks via Irish subsidiary Depfa, as well as Dexia. The last of these, says the Wall Street Journal, is the proud owner of 'essentially worthless paper'. The complex technical structures of this Andrex investment also include an interest rate swap for new improved bamboozlement among all those suckers who bought it.
As most general and specialist US media are now confidently predicting at least another dozen or so Detroits in short order, I'd imagine that almost anything could happen from here on. It would be acidically ironic, would it not, if these cockups led to the collapse of a major in Europe. Then two side-by-side arguments could continue far into the future, about (1) whose fault was it globally '' the EU or the US? and (2) whose fault was it in the US '' Democrats or Republicans? It wuzz dem pesky Democrat europhiles, honest injun. Or dem Republican isolationist neoliberals, sure was. Well, one of the two anyway.
If one keeps things elegantly simple, they work better. If you deliberately make them complex, they fail the purchaser'....but as ever, give the vendor umpteen ways to avoid prison.
Hence the global complication. The madness goes on.
Earlier at The Slog: Why do Governments employ so many crooks?
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Thu, 01 Aug 2013 07:32
Door: Patrick van IJzendoorn '' 01/08/13, 06:40
(C) epa. Liverpool-speler Suarez na een gewonnen oefenwedstrijd tegen het nationale elftal van Thailand.
'Mietje!', 'manke!' en 'je speelt als een wijf!'. Dat soort verwensingen zijn voortaan taboe in het voetbalstadion van Liverpool. Ze staan op een lijst van ongewenst taalgebruik die de club naar aanleiding van het racisme-incident omtrent spits Luis Suarez heeft opgesteld.
Verboden woorden in het stadion van Liverpool FCYid, coon, coloured, gypsy, nigger, raghead, paki, wog, chink, nip, fag, that's gay, you're gay, rent-boy, queer, lady-boy, knob-jockey, poof, she-man, play like a girl, don't be a woman, queen, princess, spaz, downy, midget, cripple, retard
Terwijl de club uit Merseyside in spanning afwacht of Suarez wel of niet blijft, is de ploeg druk bezig het imago op te poetsen. Het is alweer bijna twee jaar geleden dat de ex-ajacied het woord 'negro' bezigde in de richting van Manchester United-verdediger Patrice Evra. Sindsdien is er kritiek geweest op het gebrek aan schuldbesef bij zowel de Uruguayaan als de clubleiding.
In samenwerking met drie anti-racismeorganisaties heeft de 'social inclusion officer' van The Reds nu een handleiding geschreven met als orgelpunt een zwarte lijst voor eenieder die Anfield Road met een bezoek vereert. Het document is primair bedoeld voor supporters, want de spelers zelf krijgen nog een soortgelijke handleiding van de Engelse voetbalbond.
Het zwaarst wegen woorden die betrekking hebben op iemands huidskleur en afkomst, zoals 'yid', 'coon', 'coloured', 'gypsy' en 'nigger'.
RacismeOpmerkingen over geaardheid, geslacht, ziekte en aandoeningen zijn voortaan eveneens een waarschuwing waard. Het gaat daarbij onder meer over verwensingen als 'that's gay', 'queer', 'queen', 'retard', 'lady-boy', 'poof', 'princess', 'downy' en 'don't be a woman'.
Er is de laatste jaren veel aandacht geweest voor racisme op de voetbalvelden, zowel in Engeland als elders in Europa. Racisme komt minder voor dan vroeger, maar door het grote aantal camera's en microfoons is elk incident zicht- of hoorbaar. Er is in Engeland een lobby gaande voor een minimumstraf van tien wedstrijden voor spelers die zich bezondigen aan discriminatie.
Naast het uitdelen van de handleiding houdt Liverpool ook workshops over gelijkheid en discriminatie. Vorig jaar was het de eerste voetbalclub die een speciaal evenement voor homoseksuelen organiseerde. Op de woordenlijst, die onder Liverpool-fans reeds het mikpunt van spot is geworden, ontbreekt opvallend genoeg de term 'negro'.
Sat, 27 Jul 2013 19:49
The popular social networking site Twitter is facing a major backlash over claims it is failing to deal with threats of sexual abuse made on its site.
A host of MPs and other leading public figures have threatened a boycott after a feminist campaigner highlighted numerous threats of rape and other violent acts being sent to her on Twitter. Caroline Criado-Perez, who finally won her fight to have prominent women represented on Britain's bank notes this week, claimed that her complaints to the site have been ignored.
A petition was soon set up demanding more robust action from the site and attracted more than 6,000 signatures within three hours. That figure had passed the 11,000 mark this afternoon.
''It is a problem involving a certain type of man who can't cope with a woman being vocal and being in the public eye. They deal with it by shutting women up with threats of sexual violence. It is nothing new, it has been going on for millennia; this is just its most recent incarnation,'' said Ms Criado-Perez.
The campaign of hatred against her began during her bank note fight. Ms Criado-Perez, who also runs the Women's Room campaign to promote women in the media, played a pivotal role in ensuring that Jane Austen would feature on the £10 note.
And she said that, once the decision was announced by new Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, the abuse escalated and began to attract the attention of fellow Twitter users. She reported it to the police and claims that she tried to alert Twitter's manager of journalism & news Mark Luckie. But his response appeared to be to simply set his account to private, making his updates invisible to most users. Ms Criado-Perez said she is still awaiting a substantive response.
She added: ''The internet makes it very easy to make this sort of threat, and sites that don't make it easy to report abuse like this make men like those who have been threatening me feel like there will be no comeback. I told some of them they would not get away with it and they just laughed; at the moment, they are right.
''There has been a deafening silence from Twitter. The accounts of the men who said those things are still active. There needs to be a massive culture shift at Twitter.''
A host of people threatened to boycott Twitter on 4 August in protest at its perceived inaction. Journalist Caitlin Moran wrote: ''We could all leave on August 4th - International Friendship Day, kind of apt.'' And, referring to the act of posting provocative messages online '' known as ''trolling'' - she added: ''[We should] tweet the holding message 'Waiting for a troll solution.'''
She received support from actress Rebecca Front and comedian Dara ' Briain, among others. But some pointed out that the abuse meted out to Ms Criado-Perez went beyond simple trolling and constituted a serious criminal offence.
MPs Stella Creasy, Yvette Cooper, Diane Abbott and John Woodcock all expressed disgust at the abuse. Ms Creasy said: ''What Caroline has had to deal with in the past day is not only disgusting, but criminal. A quick look at Twitter this morning shows that women are not prepared to stand by and take this kind of abuse. Twitter needs to get its house in order, and fast.''
John Coventry, spokesman for Change.org - which is hosting the petition to have a more effective reporting system installed '' said: ''Caroline's shown already this week with the Bank of England that campaigning works - it will be fascinating to see how Twitter responds - thousands signing a petition in one morning is a significant backlash.''
Kim Graham, who started the petition, said: ''I couldn't believe what I was reading yesterday. Caroline's campaign was phenomenal and now she's facing a relentless barrage of violent threats. I set up this Change.org petition because Twitter must take some responsibility for this.''
A Twitter spokesman refused to comment on an individual account. The spokesman added: ''However, we have rules which people agree to abide by when they sign up to Twitter. We will suspend accounts that once reported to us, are found to be in breach of our rules. We encourage users to report an account for violation of the Twitter rules by using one of our report forms.''
The site has always maintained that it exists to offer an open platform for free expression but it does have a record of suspending users who use Twitter to abuse others.
Read moreCaroline Criado-Perez: Rape threats on Twitter won't get women to shut up up. If we shout back we'll win
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 05:55
"We would give you and old Mother Pankhurst (the fossil-worm) Five Years Penal Servitude and then burn you both together," wrote an opponent of women's suffrage a hundred years ago. In this less inhibited age, it is all too easy to imagine what the tone of the tweets might have been had the writer had the technology. Men hating women who seek or exercise power is an ancient trope: there were probably men muttering sexually explicit abuse at Boudicca as she drove by. The specific threats of rape that led to the arrest on Sunday of a man who had been tweeting menaces to Caroline Criado-Perez after her successful campaign to have a woman depicted on the next £10 note are an extreme example of something that, for women with a feminist profile on Twitter, has become a commonplace.
It is no surprise that there are men who see the unmoderated environment of Twitter as an opportunity to project their criminal fantasies onto individual women, but it raises the hard old questions about the limits of free speech. Yet appealing as it may seem to kick away the platform from which they shout, making Twitter liable for what appears on it would risk destroying just what makes the site so valuable. A better course would be to tackle the abusers head on.
On the face of it, it seems reasonable to argue that Twitter should be treated as a publisher, legally responsible for what appears on its site. When it suspended the journalist Guy Adams's account last year after he was accused of breaking Twitter rules on privacy by tweeting the (office) email of the boss of NBC in a row over the broadcaster's Olympics coverage, it certainly seemed to come close to behaving like one. But Twitter has always held that it's a mere platform. As such, it never acts proactively, only in response to user complaints. Guy Adams's account was suspended because of a complaint from NBC (which had, it emerged, been alerted by Twitter, which was a partner in its Olympics coverage) and then restored because the complaint was rescinded. When the Tory peer Lord McAlpine was wrongly named in an abuse case, it was the individual tweeter he sued, not Twitter.
But that does not take Twitter off the field altogether. Its conduct since the threats against Ms Criado-Perez began last week, increasing almost to one a minute, was a complete failure for an organisation that depends on trust as part of its business model. The first condition for the successful defence of the free speech by which it defines itself (the "free speech wing of the free speech party") must be a readiness to engage in a public conversation and where necessary to defend its decisions '' in this case apparently to do nothing to block the threats or inhibit the threat-maker. Instead, complaints were met with silence, then a holding email. Only on Monday did Twitter's UK general manager, Tony Wang, promise to make the reporting of abuse more widely available than the cumbersome and restricted "report abuse" button.
Quick detection followed by decisive action are the absolute minimum responses to this kind of attack. Caroline Criado-Perez is not the first, and already the Labour MP Stella Creasey, a prominent supporter of Ms Criado-Perez, and the more vulnerable for needing to be open to her constituents, is also receiving very specific rape threats. Other prominent women are trolled by people who stop short of the criminal but are still intimidatingly offensive.
Twitter plainly has a commercial interest, and arguably a moral duty, to do everything it can to protect the extraordinary forum it has created. And, as the Criado-Perez episode illustrates, it is an extraordinary forum. If its dark side is the way that it has exposed a feminist campaigner to criminal threats, it is its sheer universality that allowed her to mobilise the support that made the Bank of England think again. Twitter delivers access for all. Regrettably that means bullies and perverts too. But their behaviour is a matter for the police, or, as Lord McAlpine showed, the civil courts, against the individual, not Twitter.
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 05:51
30 July 2013Last updated at00:43 ETSeveral papers continue to examine the use of sexist and abusive comments on Twitter.
The Guardian says "men hating women who seek or exercise power is an ancient trope" and suggests that Boudicca may have been subjected to sexually explicit abuse.
It points out that while Twitter may have a moral duty to protect its users, it should not be held liable for the actions of individuals.
The Times warns that if Twitter fails to find ways of policing itself its users will move to sites that are "less tolerant of unacceptable standards".
Writing in the paper, columnist Joan Smith thinks it is evidence that "casual sexism is back - and nastier than ever".
Minimum wageImmigration Minister Mark Harper takes to the Daily Mail to defend the government in the ongoing row about new mobile billboards that urge people who are in Britain illegally to "go home or face arrest".
He derides critics who have described the measure as racist and accuses them of encouraging illegal immigrants to break the law.
One of the architects of the national minimum wage introduced by Labour 15 years ago tells the Independent that the policy no longer works because the pay does not rise with inflation.
Professor Sir George Bain, the first chairman of the Low Pay Commission, says the gap between the minimum wage and the amount needed to meet rising living costs will only widen over the next 15 years.
He is calling on the government to adopt a more long-term approach to the situation.
Drug prescriptionsThe Daily Mirror focuses on the Moors murderer Ian Brady's failed attempt to prove he no longer needs to be detained in a secure psychiatric hospital on Merseyside.
It says Brady's legal challenge, brought because he wanted to be moved to an ordinary prison, has cost the taxpayer £500,000, including £200,000 in legal fees for the local NHS trust.
A Merseyside MP, Bill Esterson, voices his "outrage", pointing out that the money "could have been spent on mental health patients desperate for help".
"Prozac Nation" is the headline in the Sun, as it reports that Britain has seen a dramatic rise in the use of anti-depressants.
It says 50 million prescriptions were written in England alone last year, an increase of 460% since 1991.
The paper says doctors are prescribing the drugs too readily because patients can wait months for counselling.
Phone addictsBudget airline Ryanair is said by the Times to have come up with a new "wheeze" to save money - telling its pilots to fly more slowly to conserve fuel.
The paper says the measure will add an extra two minutes to every hour's flying time.
It adds that accounts published on Monday reveal that passengers are paying more in ancillary charges, such as £105 to check in a bag if paying at the airport and £70 for forgetting to print off a boarding pass.
And finally, good news for smartphone addicts whose digits are feeling the strain of hours of texting, emailing and internet browsing.
The Daily Telegraph reveals that one network provider has come up with a way to prevent injury and fatigue - a miniature weight training device called "thumbells" to build up thumb strength.
The more technology is centralized, the more it enslaves us
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 23:48
Tucked away in Google Fiber's terms of service is one clause that might annoy some technically included users. "Unless you have a written agreement with Google Fiber permitting you do so, you should not host any type of server using your Google Fiber connection," Google tells subscribers to its Gigabit Internet service.
A man in Kansas named Douglas McClendon complained that this clause violates the Federal Communication Commission's Open Internet Order, which states that "Fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices."
The FCC ordered Google to respond, and the company did so yesterday in a letter to the FCC that Wired obtained from McClendon. Google says its terms of service do not violate the FCC's Open Internet Order:
Google Fiber's server policy is an aspect of ''reasonable network management'' that the Open Internet Order and Rules specifically permit. Mr. McClendon appears to allege that Google Fiber's server policy violates the prohibitions against ''blocking'' and/or ''unreasonable discrimination." The Order, however, provides an exception in both instances for ''reasonable network management.'' As the Order explains, ''[a] network management practice is reasonable if it is appropriate and tailored to achieving a legitimate network management purpose, taking into account the particular network architecture and technology of the broadband Internet access service.''
Google Fiber's server policy is prototypical ''reasonable network management,'' with no discriminatory impact on any content, application, or service provider. The server policy has been established to account for the congestion management and network security needs of Google Fiber's network architecture, particularly given that Google Fiber does not impose data caps on its users.
Google isn't alone in imposing these sorts of rules. Comcast restricts use of servers including "e-mail, Web hosting, file sharing, and proxy services and servers."
A "server" can be any type of computer if it runs server software, regardless of whether it's one of the expensive machines that are used in data centers and usually associated with the word.
As Wired reporter Ryan Singel notes, Google's terms of service would technically ban things like Minecraft servers and Slingbox. "But in the Google Fiber forums, employees assure subscribers the rules aren't meant to apply to Minecraft servers," Singel wrote. "And, in reality, Google Fiber probably won't notice, let alone kick you off, for using a Slingbox or peer-to-peer software."
Thu, 01 Aug 2013 12:44
MORE than 1,000 Chinese investors have bought houses in Cyprus in the past year, taking advantage of a visa deal that grants the right to roam the European Union.The struggling island nation has overhauled its visa process for wealthy immigrants in an attempt to encourage investment, pledging to turn around applications in two to three months.Anyone buying a house worth '¬300,000 (£260,000) or more can gain a ''Permanent Residency Permit'' in Cyprus if they can prove they have no criminal record and deposit '¬30,000 for a minimum of three years in a local bank.About 80% of the Chinese immigrants have clustered in Paphos, a tourist town on the southwest coast, where last month China Glory National Investment, based in Hong Kong, committed itself to investing '¬290m in a '¬1.5bn golf resort. The business has set up offices in Nicosia, the capital.
Mon, 29 Jul 2013 17:39
A Myanmar-China natural gas pipeline began operations Sunday in Mandalay, Myanmar's second largest city.
The 793-kilometer pipeline is part of an oil and gas pipelines project involving investments from six corporations from four countries, including China, Myanmar, South Korea and India. A crude oil pipeline also nearing completion has an annual capacity of 22 million tons.
"The pipelines project will not only benefit the four countries but also help promote Myanmar's economic growth, industrialization and electrification, which are very meaningful to Myanmar's long-term development," said Myanmar Vice-President U Nyan Tun.
The pipeline goes all the way from Myanmar to the Chinese border town Ruili in Yunnan Province. With six processing stations, it will be able to carry 12 billion cubic meters of gas annually.
An unnamed senior Chinese official told the Global Times that Myanmar could offload some 2 million tons of oil and 20 percent of gas from the pipelines annually for its domestic use after the whole project is completed.
"The pipelines could help spread the pressure on energy transportation more widely and reduce China's dependence on the Strait of Malacca for transportation," Lin Boqiang, director of the Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times.
"These pipelines could make China's energy map more complete and the energy supply for the southwestern part of China would become more reliable," Bi Shihong, a professor with the School of International Studies at Yunnan University, told the Global Times.
"The construction of the pipelines will strengthen economic cooperation between China and Myanmar," said Bi, adding that Myanmar has a serious trade deficit with China and the project would alleviate the trade imbalance.
The fate of these pipelines project was previously thought to be in danger after two large-scale Chinese projects encountered setbacks in Myanmar.
Agencies contributed to this story
Sat, 27 Jul 2013 13:20
Class-action suit against Pfizer Canada over anti-smoking drug Champix to proceed
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Canadian PressFriday, Jul. 26, 2013
Pfizer says there is no reliable scientific evidence proving that Champix causes these adverse reactions. Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press
OTTAWA '-- A class-action lawsuit against pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Canada over its anti-smoking drug Champix will proceed, an Ontario Superior Court has ruled.
The Ontario court certified the class-action lawsuit in June 2012, but Pfizer sought leave to appeal the certification order.
On Friday, lawyers for the plaintiffs, including Toronto-based firm McPhadden Samac Tuovi LLP, announced a judge has dismissed Pfizer's appeal.
The judge made the ruling in November, but lawyer Bryan McPhadden says it was not made public until now because the two sides were in negotiations over how the class members should be notified.
The plaintiffs allege the drug maker failed to warn Canadians taking the drug that they could suffer psychiatric side effects such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
Pfizer says there is no reliable scientific evidence proving that Champix causes these adverse reactions.
''The court's ruling is procedural only and no ruling has been made on the merits of the claim,'' Pfizer said in a statement.
''The Company stands behind Champix and Pfizer Canada provided appropriate and accurate information to regulators, physicians and patients about the safety and efficacy of Champix.''
The lawsuit represents Canadians who took the drug between April 2, 2007 and May 31, 2010 and suffered certain adverse reactions.
The Canadian Press
Posted in:Legal Post Tags:Pfizer Canada
Thu, 01 Aug 2013 12:42
In ''The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?'' (New York Review of Books, 2011), Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, discusses over-diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, pathologizing of normal behaviors, Big Pharma corruption of psychiatry, and the adverse effects of psychiatric medications. While diagnostic expansionism and Big Pharma certainly deserve a large share of the blame for this epidemic, there is another reason.
A June 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 70% of Americans hate their jobs or have ''checked out'' of them. Life may or may not suck any more than it did a generation ago, but our belief in ''progress'' has increased expectations that life should be more satisfying, resulting in mass disappointment. For many of us, society has become increasingly alienating, isolating and insane, and earning a buck means more degrees, compliance, ass-kissing, shit-eating, and inauthenticity. So, we want to rebel. However, many of us feel hopeless about the possibility of either our own escape from societal oppression or that political activism can create societal change. So, many of us, especially young Americans, rebel by what is commonly called mental illness.
While historically some Americans have consciously faked mental illness to rebel from oppressive societal demands (e.g., a young Malcolm X acted crazy to successfully avoid military service), today, the vast majority of Americans who are diagnosed and treated for mental illness are in no way proud malingerers in the fashion of Malcolm X. Many of us, sadly, are ashamed of our inefficiency and nonproductivity and desperately try to fit in. However, try as we might to pay attention, adapt, adjust, and comply with our alienating jobs, boring schools, and sterile society, our humanity gets in the way, and we become anxious, depressed and dysfunctional.
Severe, disabling mental illness has dramatically increased in the Untied States. Marcia Angell, in her 2011 New York Review of Bookspiece, summarizes: ''The tally of those who are so disabled by mental disorders that they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) increased nearly two and a half times between 1987 and 2007'--from 1 in 184 Americans to 1 in 76. For children, the rise is even more startling'--a thirty-five-fold increase in the same two decades.''
Angell also reports that a large survey of adults conducted between 2001 and 2003 sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health found that at some point in their lives, 46% of Americans met the criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association for at least one mental illness.
In 1998, Martin Seligman, then president of the American Psychological Association, spoke to the National Press Club about an American depression epidemic: ''We discovered two astonishing things about the rate of depression across the century. The first was there is now between ten and twenty times as much of it as there was fifty years ago. And the second is that it has become a young person's problem. When I first started working in depression thirty years ago. . . the average age of which the first onset of depression occurred was 29.5. . . .Now the average age is between 14 and 15.''
In 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that antidepressant use in the United States has increased nearly 400% in the last two decades, making antidepressants the most frequently used class of medications by Americans ages 18-44 years. By 2008, 23% of women ages 40''59 years were taking antidepressants.
The CDC, on May 3, 2013, reported that the suicide rate among Americans ages 35''64 years increased 28.4% between 1999 and 2010 (from 13.7 suicides per 100,000 population in 1999 to 17.6 per 100,000 in 2010).
The New York Times reported in 2007 that the number of American children and adolescents treated for bipolar disorder had increased 40-fold between 1994 and 2003. In May 2013, CDC reported in ''Mental Health Surveillance Among Children'--United States, 2005''2011,'' the following: ''A total of 13%''20% of children living in the United States experience a mental disorder in a given year, and surveillance during 1994''2011 has shown the prevalence of these conditions to be increasing.''
Over-Diagnosis, Pathologizing the Normal and Psychiatric Drug Adverse Effects
Even within mainstream psychiatry, few continue to argue that the increase in mental illness is due to previous under-diagnosis of mental disorders. The most common explanations for the mental illness epidemic include recent over-diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, diagnoses expansionism, and psychiatry's pathologizing normal behavior.
The first DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), psychiatry's diagnostic bible, was published by the American Psychiatric Association in 1952 and listed 106 disorders (initially called ''reactions''). DSM-2 was published in 1968, and the number of disorders increased to 182. DSM-3 was published in 1980, and though homosexuality was dropped from it, diagnoses were expanded to 265, with several child disorders added that would soon become popular, including oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). DSM-4, published in 1994, contained 365 diagnoses.
DSM-5 was published in May, 2013. The journal PLOS Medicine reported in 2012, ''69% of the DSM-5 task force members report having ties to the pharmaceutical industry.'' DSM-5 did not add as many new diagnoses as had previous revisions. However, DSM-5 has been criticized even by some mainstream psychiatrists such as Allen Frances, the former chair of the DSM-4 taskforce, for creating more mental patients by making it easier to qualify for a mental illness, especially for depression. (See Frances' ''Last Plea To DSM-5: Save Grief From the Drug Companies.'')
In the last two decades, there have been a slew of books written by journalists and mental health professionals about the lack of science behind the DSM, the over-diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, and the pathologizing of normal behaviors. A sample of these books includes: Paula Caplan's They Say You're Crazy (1995), Herb Kutchins and Stuart Kirk's Making Us Crazy (1997), Allan Horwitz and Jerome Wakefield's The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder (2007), Christopher Lane's Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness (2008), Stuart Kirk, Tomi Gomory, and David Cohen's Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis, and Drugs (2013), Gary Greenberg's The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry (2013), and Allen Frances' Saving Normal (2013).
Even more remarkable than former chair of the DSM-4 taskforce, Allen Frances, jumping on the DSM-trashing bandwagon has been the harsh critique of DSM-5 by Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Insel recently announced that the DSM's diagnostic categories lack validity, and that ''NIMH will be re-orienting its research away from DSM categories.'' And psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, former chair of the DSM-3 task force, wrote the foreword to Horwitz and Wakefield's The Loss of Sadness and is now critical of DSM's inattention to context in which the symptoms occur which, he points out, can medicalize normal experiences.
So, in just two decades, pointing out the pseudoscience of the DSM has gone from being an ''extremist slur of radical anti-psychiatrists'' to a mainstream proposition from the former chairs of both the DSM-3 and DSM-4 taskforces and the director of NIMH.
Yet another explanation for the epidemic may also be evolving from radical to mainstream, thanks primarily to the efforts of investigative journalist Robert Whitaker and his book Anatomy of An Epidemic (2010). Whitaker argues that the adverse effects of psychiatric medications are the primary cause of the epidemic. He reports that these drugs, for many patients, cause episodic and moderate emotional and behavioral problems to become severe, chronic and disabling ones.
Examining the scientific literature that now extends over 50 years, Whitaker discovered that while some psychiatric medications for some people may be effective over the short term, these drugs increase the likelihood that a person will become chronically ill over the long term. Whitaker reports, ''The scientific literature shows that many patients treated for a milder problem will worsen in response to a drug'--say have a manic episode after taking an antidepressant'--and that can lead to a new and more severe diagnosis like bipolar disorder.''
With respect to the dramatic increase of pediatric bipolar disorder, Whitaker points out that, ''Once psychiatrists started putting 'hyperactive' children on Ritalin, they started to see prepubertal children with manic symptoms. Same thing happened when psychiatrists started prescribing antidepressants to children and teenagers. A significant percentage had manic or hypomanic reactions to the antidepressants.'' And then these children and teenagers are put on heavier duty drugs, including drug cocktails, often do not respond favorably to treatment and deteriorate. And that, for Whitaker, is a major reason for the 35-fold increase between 1987 and 2007 of children classified as being disabled by mental disorders. (See my 2010 interview with him, ''Are Prozac and Other Psychiatric Drugs Causing the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America?'')
Whitaker's explanation for the epidemic has now, even within mainstream psychiatric institutions, entered into the debate; for example, Whitaker was invited by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) to speak at their 2013 annual convention that took place last June While Whitaker concludes that psychiatry's drug-based paradigm of care is the primary cause of the epidemic, he does not rule out the possibility that various cultural factors may also be contributing to the increase in the number of mentally ill.
Mental Illness as Rebellion Against Society
''The most deadly criticism one could make of modern civilization is that apart from its man-made crises and catastrophes, is not humanly interesting. . . . In the end, such a civilization can produce only a mass man: incapable of spontaneous, self-directed activities: at best patient, docile, disciplined to monotonous work to an almost pathetic degree. . . . Ultimately such a society produces only two groups of men: the conditioners and the conditioned, the active and passive barbarians.'' '--Lewis Mumford, 1951
Once it was routine for many respected social critics such as Lewis Mumford and Erich Fromm to express concern about the impact of modern civilization on our mental health. But today the idea that the mental illness epidemic is also being caused by a peculiar rebellion against a dehumanizing society has been, for the most part, removed from the mainstream map. When a societal problem grows to become all encompassing, we often no longer even notice it.
We are today disengaged from our jobs and our schooling. Young people are pressured to accrue increasingly large student-loan debt so as to acquire the credentials to get a job, often one which they will have little enthusiasm about. And increasing numbers of us are completely socially isolated, having nobody who cares about us.
Returning to that June 2013 Gallup survey, ''The State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement,'' only 30% of workers ''were engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace.'' In contrast to this ''actively engaged group,'' 50% were ''not engaged,'' simply going through the motions to get a paycheck, while 20% were classified as ''actively disengaged,'' hating going to work and putting energy into undermining their workplace. Those with higher education levels reported more discontent with their workplace.
How engaged are we with our schooling? Another Gallup poll ''The School Cliff: Student Engagement Drops With Each School Year'' (released in January 2013), reported that the longer students stay in school, the less engaged they become. The poll surveyed nearly 500,000 students in 37 states in 2012, and found nearly 80% of elementary students reported being engaged with school, but by high school, only 40% reported being engaged. As the pollsters point out, ''If we were doing right by our students and our future, these numbers would be the absolute opposite. For each year a student progresses in school, they should be more engaged, not less.''
Life clearly sucks more than it did a generation ago when it comes to student loan debt. According to American Student Assistance's ''Student Debt Loan Statistics,'' approximately 37 million Americans have student loan debt. The majority of borrowers still paying back their loans are in their 30s or older. Approximately two-thirds of students graduate college with some education debt. Nearly 30% of college students who take out loans drop out of school, and students who drop out of college before earning a degree struggle most with student loans. As of October 2012, the average amount of student loan debt for the Class of 2011 was $26,600, a 5% increase from 2010. Only about 37% of federal student-loan borrowers between 2004 and 2009 managed to make timely payments without postponing payments or becoming delinquent.
In addition to the pain of jobs, school, and debt, there is increasingly more pain of social isolation. A major study reported in the American Sociological Review in 2006, ''Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks Over Two Decades,'' examined Americans' core network of confidants (those people in our lives we consider close enough to trust with personal information and whom we rely on as a sounding board). Authors reported that in 1985, 10% of Americans said that they had no confidants in their lives; but by 2004, 25% of Americans stated they had no confidants in their lives. This study confirmed the continuation of trends that came to public attention in sociologist Robert Putnam's 2000 book Bowling Alone.
Underlying many of psychiatry's nearly 400 diagnoses is the experience of helplessness, hopelessness, passivity, boredom, fear, isolation, and dehumanization'--culminating in a loss of autonomy and community-connectedness. Do our societal institutions promote:
Enthusiasm'--or passivity?Respectful personal relationships'--or manipulative impersonal ones?Community, trust, and confidence'--or isolation, fear and paranoia?Empowerment'--or helplessness?Autonomy (self-direction)'--or heteronomy (institutional-direction)?Participatory democracy'--or authoritarian hierarchies?Diversity and stimulation'--or homogeneity and boredom?Research (that I documented in Commonsense Rebellion) shows that those labeled with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) do worst in environments that are boring, repetitive, and externally controlled; and that ADHD-labeled children are indistinguishable from ''normals'' when they have chosen their learning activities and are interested in them. Thus, the standard classroom could not be more imperfectly designed to meet the learning needs of young people who are labeled with ADHD.
As I discussed last year in AlterNet in ''Would We Have Drugged Up Einstein? How Anti-Authoritarianism Is Deemed a Mental Health Problem,'' there is a fundamental bias in mental health professionals for interpreting inattention and noncompliance as a mental disorder. Those with extended schooling have lived for many years in a world where all pay attention to much that is unstimulating. In this world, one routinely complies with the demands of authorities. Thus for many M.D.s and Ph.D.s, people who rebel against this attentional and behavioral compliance appear to be from another world'--a diagnosable one.
The reality is that with enough helplessness, hopelessness, passivity, boredom, fear, isolation, and dehumanization, we rebel and refuse to comply. Some of us rebel by becoming inattentive. Others become aggressive. In large numbers we eat, drink and gamble too much. Still others become addicted to drugs, illicit and prescription. Millions work slavishly at dissatisfying jobs, become depressed and passive aggressive, while no small number of us can't cut it and become homeless and appear crazy. Feeling misunderstood and uncared about, millions of us ultimately rebel against societal demands, however, given our wherewithal, our rebellions are often passive and disorganized, and routinely futile and self-destructive.
When we have hope, energy and friends, we can choose to rebel against societal oppression with, for example, a wildcat strike or a back-to-the-land commune. But when we lack hope, energy and friends, we routinely rebel without consciousness of rebellion and in a manner in which we today commonly call mental illness.
For some Americans, no doubt, the conscious goal is to get classified as mentally disabled so as to receive disability payments (averaging $700 to 1,400 per month). But isn't that too a withdrawal of cooperation with society and a rebellion of sorts, based on the judgment that this is the best paying and least miserable financial option?
Thu, 01 Aug 2013 07:34
July 31st, 2013
(DailySheeple) '' The FDA has issued a public safety announcement for mefloquine, an anti-malarial drug also known by the band name Lariam. The drug will now carry a ''black box'' warning '' the most serious warning the FDA issues.
Mefloquine has been used by U.S. troops for years, and is also available to civilians traveling to ''hot spots''. It was developed by the US Army and became available on the commercial market in 1989. It is one of the most commonly prescribed anti-malarial drugs in the U.S., with about 119,000 prescriptions written in the first half of 2013.
The FDA warning about the mefloquine was issued on July 29, 2013 in a public safety announcement, which states:
FDA is advising the public about strengthened and updated warnings regarding neurologic and psychiatric side effects associated with the antimalarial drug mefloquine hydrochloride. A boxed warning, the most serious kind of warning about these potential problems, has been added to the drug label.
FDA has revised the patient Medication Guide dispensed with each prescription and wallet card to include this information and the possibility that the neurologic side effects may persist or become permanent. The neurologic side effects can include dizziness, loss of balance, or ringing in the ears. The psychiatric side effects can include feeling anxious, mistrustful, depressed, or having hallucinations.
Neurologic side effects can occur at any time during drug use, and can last for months to years after the drug is stopped or can be permanent.
Mefloquine has been implicated in cases of violence among military personnel, with the most notable case being that of Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who pleaded guilty in June to killing 16 Afghan citizens in 2012. His sentencing trial begins in August 2013.
The possibility that Sgt. Bales was given mefloquine while in Afghanistan and Iraq was raised earlier this month when the FDA released an adverse event notification filed by an anonymous pharmacist in 2012. The notification states that an unnamed soldier who took the drug murdered 17 Afghan citizens '' the same number included in Bales' initial charging documents.
The adverse event notification report was obtained by Military Times on July 5 via the Freedom of Information Act. It states:
It was reported that this patient was administered mefloquine in direct contradiction to US military rules that mefloquine should not be given to soldiers who had suffered traumatic brain injury due to its propensity to cross blood-brain barriers inciting psychotic, homicidal, or suicidal behavior.
An FDA adverse event report means that a patient developed symptoms while using a drug, but does not necessarily mean the medication caused any specific health problems. However, the medically confirmed report does suggest that either the source of the notification was someone who was directly involved with the patient's medical care or that the drug manufacturer received documentation verifying the information, according to Dr. Remington Nevin, a leading mefloquine researcher who has also filed a FOIA request for the information.
Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple, where this article first appeared. Her goal is to help people to ''Wake the Flock Up!''
Tags: black box, drug linked to mass killings, FDA, warningThis entry was posted on Wednesday, July 31st, 2013 at 10:44 pm and is filed under Big Pharma, Dictatorship, Drugs, Education/Mind Control, Fascism, Neuro/Bio/Chem Warfare, NWO, Science/Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 05:45
Natural Newsby Ethan A. Huff
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has once again been caught removing pertinent but indicting information about vaccines from its website. This time it involves the infamous polio vaccine, up to 98 million doses of which have been exposed as containing a cancer-causing virus that is now believed to be responsible for causing millions of cancers in America, according to the CDC.
The information was posted on an official CDC fact sheet entitled Cancer, Simian Virus 40 (SV40), and Polio Vaccine, which has since been removed from the CDC's website. Fortunately, RealFarmacy.com was able to archive the damning page before the CDC ultimately removed it, presumably because SV40 has been receiving considerable attention lately due to its connection to causing cancer.
You can view the link to the original CDC page on SV40 and polio vaccines, which is no longer active, here:http://www.cdc.gov
You can view the full archived CDC page here:http://webcache.googleusercontent.com
As you will notice on the archived CDC page, the SV40 virus was allegedly first discovered in monkeys back in 1960, and not long after began appearing inexplicably in polio vaccines. The SV40 virus, according to this same page, has been linked to causing a variety of human cancers, including childhood leukemia, lung cancer, bone cancer, and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Though the CDC denies a definitive causal link between SV40 and cancer, it implies that the virus, which was supposedly removed from all polio vaccines in 1963, was problematic in relation to cancer development. More than 98 million people, in fact, may have been exposed to SV40 as a result of receiving government-recommended polio vaccines back in the 1960s, and many of these may have developed cancer as a result.
''More than 98 million Americans received one or more doses of polio vaccine from 1955 to 1963 when a proportion of vaccine was contaminated with SV40,'' explains the CDC. ''[I]t has been estimated that 10-30 million Americans could have received an SV40 contaminated dose of vaccine.''
So why the sudden removal of this important information from the CDC's website? The cached CDC page, as you will notice, makes sure to dissuade its readers from thinking that SV40 has been conclusively linked to causing cancer, even though it was demonstrated back in 1961 by the National Institute of Health (NIH) that SV40 is directly linked to causing tumor formation.
''Like other polyomaviruses, SV40 is a DNA virus that has been found to cause tumors and cancer,'' explains RealFarmacy.com. ''SV40 is believed to suppress the transcriptional properties of the tumor-suppressing genes in humans through the SV40 Large T-antigen and SV40 Small T-antigen. Mutated genes may contribute to uncontrolled cellular proliferation, leading to cancer.''
As far as specific conditions linked to SV40, Michele Carbone, Assistant Professor of Pathology at Loyola University in Chicago, found that the virus is present in many cases of both osteosarcoma bone cancer and the increasingly prevalent lung cancer variety known as mesothelioma. As it turns out, Carbone identified SV40 in about one-third of all osteosarcoma cases studied, and in 40 percent of other bone cancers. The same was true for 60 percent of all cases of mesothelioma.
''Many authorities now admit much, possibly most, of the world's cancers came from the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines, and hepatitis B vaccines, produced in monkeys and chimps,'' adds RealFarmacy.com. ''It is said (that) mesothelioma is a result of asbestos exposure, but research reveals that 50 percent of the current mesotheliomas being treated no longer occur due to asbestos but rather the SV40 virus contained in polio vaccination.''
Be sure to read the entire RealFarmacy.com report here:http://www.realfarmacy.com
Sources for this article include:
Via Natural News
Mon, 29 Jul 2013 17:24
A Harvard study has concluded that drinking several cups of coffee a day can reduce the risk of suicide in both men and women.
The study, which was published in the World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, reviewed data from three large-scale US studies. The research compared the suicide rate among adults who drank between 2 and 4 caffeinated cups of coffee a day, those who drank much less coffee a day, non-coffee drinkers and those who drank decaffeinated coffee.
Covering around 200,000 participants over 16 years, the investigation found that the risk of suicide was 50 percent less for those consuming up to 400mg of caffeine a day.
Michel Lucas, one of the lead researchers from the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, said: ''Unlike previous investigations, we were able to assess association of consumption of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages, and we identify caffeine as the most likely candidate of any putative protective effect of coffee.''
It is believed that caffeine has an effect on neurotransmitters and boosts the production of serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline, which work as mild antidepressants. In the past, other studies have found that coffee reduced depression in women but this is the first research to look into the link between caffeine and incidents of suicide.
Despite the positive results scientists are still advising moderation: ''Overall, our results suggest that there is little further benefit for consumption above two to three cups/day or 400 mg of caffeine/day.'' They explained that although their own data for drinkers of large quantities of coffee was not extensive enough for significant results, other studies had found that suicide rates were higher in those drinking between 8 and 9 cups a day.
More about:Health, Medical research, ResearchCopyright (C) 2013 euronews
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 14:33
A group of biotech seed companies have launched an online forum to rebuff disapproval of genetically modified foods across the world. Activists and consumer groups are skeptical, saying the industry has a 'track record of being anything but transparent'.
The website is said to be partly backed by the biotech US giant Monsanto, DuPont and Dow AgroSciences, according to Reuters, as well as by other companies whose products feature ingredients that have been genetically altered in ways the companies claim improve food production.
Founders of www.GMOAnswers.com say the website was created ''to do a better job answering your questions '-- no matter what they are '-- about GMOs.'' Its launch is part of the biotech industry's campaign to respond to concerns for GMO food labeling and tighter regulation in the US.
One user from Newtown, Pennsylvania identified as Sorgfelt posted a question on the website asking whether he could trust any research done on GMOs that has the imprimatur of the Missouri-based Monsanto. He query was prompted after learning ''from practical experience that, in order to get a job with Monsanto, or do any research that is supported by Monsanto, or even to publish research on Monsanto seeds, that all of my work would have to be approved by Monsanto.''
''This makes it very difficult to have legitimate third party research to rely on,'' Sorgfelt, whose question has yet to be answered, added.
Meanwhile, biotech industry players say all they want is dialogue on the issue.
"This... is an effort to increase the dialogue. That is all we want," Paul Schickler, president of DuPont Pioneer told Reuters. "Dialogue is good. Over time I think we'll come to a common understanding."
Activists argue that the newly-established website won't help stop the consumer backlash against genetically engineered foods that has been brewing for years.
'''...the industry has a track record of being anything but transparent. They spend millions in marketing and lobbying against popular GMO labeling efforts. Their control of patents has prevented research from being done on the long-term impacts of biotech crops and food products. This latest public relations blitz is just more of the same from an industry that is struggling to combat popular sentiment that genetically engineered foods are unlabeled, untested and unsafe,'' Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, Wenonah Hauter, said on Monday.
''More claims from the biotech industry about the safety of genetic engineering are not a replacement for the clear labeling that consumers are demanding,'' he added.
Protests against Monsanto have become a frequent event across the globe. Earlier this month the world's largest seed-maker said it would drop its bid to grow some of its genetically modified crops in Europe after a number of European countries, including France, Germany and Italy, established bans against genetically-modified organisms.
The company's corporate spokesman explained that Monsanto would offer its biotech crops only to those who want them.
"We're going to sell the GM seeds only where they enjoy broad farmer support, broad political support and a functioning regulatory system," Thomas Helscher told Reuters in May. "As far as we're convinced this only applies to a few countries in Europe today, primarily Spain and Portugal."
The company is also looking to gain its share in the corn market in Ukraine. Eastern Europe, as well as South America, are currently the key growth areas for Monsanto.
Another issue raising public concerns is the labeling of GMOs products, which usually go onto supermarket shelves unmarked.
Last year, Monsanto and other industry members spent $40 million to defeat a ballot initiative in California to require labeling of GMO food, Reuters reported.
The Natural Products Association, the nation's largest association for natural products representing 1,900 food industry players, has recently called for all foods containing genetically-modified organisms to be accurately labeled under a uniform standard, so consumers can ''make educated decisions about foods they purchase''.
In March, grocery retailer Whole Foods announced that by 2018, all products in US and Canadian stores must be labeled if they contain GMOs. This is the first national grocery store to set a deadline for genetically modified ingredients labeling.
''We are putting a stake in the ground on GMO labeling to support the consumer's right to know,'' co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, Walter Robb, said. ''The prevalence of GMOs in the US paired with nonexistent mandatory labeling makes it very difficult for retailers to source non-GMO options and for consumers to choose non-GMO products. Accordingly, we are stepping up our support of certified organic agriculture, where GMOs are not allowed, and we are working together with our supplier partners to grow our non-GMO supply chain to ensure we can continue to provide these choices in the future,'' he added.
In June, Chipotle Mexican became the first US restaurant chain to reveal GMO ingredients after it begun labeling all the ingredients the grill burrito group uses that contain genetically modified organisms.
Sun, 28 Jul 2013 23:19
Stunned officers chipped away plaster at a record shop wall and unveiled a hidden list of names thought to belong to young victims of Jimmy Savile.
The vile register, which contained the names, ages and a disgusting ratings system seemingly used to mark their sexual performance, was scrawled on a secret wall buried behind layers of wallpaper and plaster.
A source revealed: ''The wall looked like something straight out of a horror movie. There were lists and lists of names of the victims '' it's a shocking discovery.''
The list of girls and young women is thought to identify hundreds of potential new victims abused at the hands of the BBC DJ and it raised fears Savile was at the centre of a celebrity paedophile ring.
Police believe the major breakthrough could lead to further arrests '' including other well-known celebrities.
The wall also appeared to contain the names of girls the sick group hoped to target in the future.
Officers who raided the shop in Greater Manchester after a tip-off will now try to trace the alleged victims.
A source said the raid had provided the clearest evidence yet to show Savile was part of a larger group of monsters.
The source said: ''Savile appeared to be using the room above the record store as some kind of secret HQ to plan his vile acts.
''There appears to be some suggestion that he was not acting alone either.
''There were others who appear to be involved, several others, some of whom are household names.''
As the specialist officers ripped away the layers from the wall, the names of up to 200 new people they believe he and accomplices attacked or planned toattack during the 1980s and 1990s were gradually revealed.
At least one other well-known BBC figure and several celebrities are now being linked to the probe. Suspects face being quizzed in the coming weeks.
The source added: ''Police think there might be hundreds of new female victims that needed to be spoken to as a result of the record shop raid.
Earlier this year it was suggested there were around 450 victims of Savile's depraved actions.
''This looks like an under-estimation. If the evidence on the wall is anything to go by, we could be talking in the region of 650 victims in all. It's shocking.''
Criminologist Professor David Wilson from Birmingham City University said the register was a way for the predators to boast about their conquests.
Margaret Thatcher with Jimmy Savile
He said: ''In the age before the internet made it possible for paedophiles to communicate with each other and write about who they could abuse and the form that abuse may take, they found other methods.
Paedophiles are constantly evolving ways of communicating.
''By putting it on a wall they are making it public, but by hiding it, it is private. The public nature is because they are proud of it. It is a boasting system.
It is a form of saying 'this is what I've done. I've done more than you.'
It's about them displaying their own sexual success in being able to abuse these children.
''They also recognise this could lead to arrest, so they had to be careful about their sexual preferences.
''At the time this was said to have taken place paedophiles used contact magazines and groups of associates to get in touch with each other.
We are beginning to see how widespread Savile's abuse was.
''The significance of it having been found in a record shop is that at the time this was where all the young people went to buy their records and hang out.
Now they download songs on the internet.''
Police carried out the raid a few weeks ago. The findings potentially raise the depravity of disgraced Savile '' who died at 84 in October 2011 '' to new levels.
A joint police and NSPCC report published in January declared that with at least 450 victims, he was one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders.
Commander Peter Spindler said Savile ''groomed the nation'' as he raised millions for charity while using his status as a platform for abuse.
Leeds-born Savile had links with Greater Manchester stretching back to the 1950s when he managed a ballroom in the city.
His first known attack took place in Manchester in 1955. Investigators who revealed the scale of his abuse said he used his appeal to target the vulnerable.
In 1964, Savile's name was mentioned to police investigating allegations that men were exploiting girls from Duncroft Approved School in Surrey.
Police arrested two men in London and a ledger showed Savile was a regular visitor there. Following his death, 28 police forces recorded 214 crimes committed by the presenter, including 34 rape claims. The latest allegation against him was from 2009 when he was aged 82.
The report said he targeted children as young as eight and sexually attacked at least 23 of his victims on BBC premises.
In 1972 during a break in filming, Savile groped a 12-year-old boy and felt the breasts of the youngster's two friends.
Investigators also found he carried out abuse in at least 14 hospitals between 1955 and 2009, including Great Ormond Street and one hospice.
Savile was stripped of his knighthood when dozens of women came forward to say he attacked them during his 54-year campaign of abuse.
Officers launched Operation Yewtree to probe the claims and there are now three strands to the investigation. One concerns Savile's crimes exclusively, while another relates to allegations against Savile and others.
The third concentrates on accusations unconnected to Savile but which emerged following publicity.
A host of soap stars, DJs and TV presenters have been arrested during nationwide probes into historical sex offences in cases not connected to Savile.
BBC presenter Stuart Hall had his prison sentence for a series of assaults on girls doubled to 30 months on Friday.
Three Appeal Court judges ruled his original 15-month term was ''inadequate''. The former It's A Knockout host, 83, admitted sexually assaulting 13 girls aged nine to 17 over nearly 20 years.
Coronation Street star Bill Roache is one of the best-known actors to be held over allegations in the aftermath of the Savile scandal. He was charged in May with raping a teenage girl in 1967.
Roache has been bailed until his next court appearance on September 2 when he will enter formal pleas.
The actor, who has played Ken Barlow in the ITV1 soap since its launch, also faces charges of five indecent assaults involving four girls aged between 11 or 12 and 16. He denies all the claims.
His fellow Corrie star Michael Le Vell, who plays mechanic Kevin Webster, has been taken off air after being charged with 19 offences against a child, including rape, indecent assault and sexual activity.
Police have been inundated with calls following coverage of Savile's depraved legacy.
It is claimed more of those allegedly abused are now finding the courage to come forward because the police are taking a new approach '' giving potential victims hope their cases will be treated seriously.
Dozen of other arrests so far include Gary Glitter and comedian Freddie Starr.
Comic Jimmy Tarbuck was arrested at his home in South West London in May in connection with a historic child sex abuse claim.
And PR guru Max Clifford has been charged with 11 indecent assaults allegedly committed between 1966 and 1985.
The 70-year-old has vowed to clear his name. All those who have been arrested have vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Inside Jimmy Savile's sex caravan
Thu, 25 Jul 2013 07:45
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Wed, 24 Jul 2013 05:24
David Cameron: "In the balance between freedom and responsibility we have neglected our responsibility to children"
Most households in the UK will have pornography blocked by their internet provider unless they choose to receive it, David Cameron has announced.
In addition, the prime minister said possessing online pornography depicting rape would become illegal in England and Wales - in line with Scotland.
Mr Cameron warned in a speech that access to online pornography was "corroding childhood".
The new measures will apply to both existing and new customers.
Continue reading the main storyAnalysisSeven years ago David Cameron told a Google conference that politicians should encourage companies to change, not over-regulate them.
Today, he announced he had reached agreement with the four biggest ISPs on pornography filters, after some behind the scenes tussling.
But he hinted that if search engines like Google didn't agree to a blacklist of search terms, he would legislate.
From Downing St, he can supplement the art of persuasion with the smack of firm government.
Back in his opposition days, Cameron made waves presenting himself as a man on the side of parents against firms that sold chocolates at checkouts and children's bikinis.
If he can mould a similar image in Downing St, as a PM doing battle with big business on behalf of fellow parents, he will be more than happy.
Mr Cameron also called for some "horrific" internet search terms to be "blacklisted", meaning they would automatically bring up no results on websites such as Google or Bing.
He told the BBC he expected a "row" with service providers who, he said in his speech, were "not doing enough to take responsibility" despite having a "moral duty" to do so.
He also warned he could have to "force action" by changing the law and that, if there were "technical obstacles", firms should use their "greatest brains" to overcome them.
'Innocence'In his speech, Mr Cameron said family-friendly filters would be automatically selected for all new customers by the end of the year - although they could choose to switch them off.
And millions of existing computer users would be contacted by their internet providers and told they must decide whether to use or not use "family-friendly filters" to restrict adult material.
The filters would apply to all devices linked to the affected home Wi-Fi network and across the public Wi-Fi network "wherever children are likely to be present".
Customers who do not click on either option - accepting or declining - will have filters activated by default, Tory MP Claire Perry, Mr Cameron's adviser on the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood, told the BBC.
The UK's biggest internet service providers have agreed to the filters scheme meaning it should cover 95% of homes.
Other measures announced by the prime minister included:
New laws so videos streamed online in the UK will be subject to the same restrictions as those sold in shopsSearch engines having until October to introduce further measures to block illegal contentExperts from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre being given more powers to examine secretive file-sharing networksA secure database of banned child pornography images gathered by police across the country will be used to trace illegal content and the paedophiles viewing itMr Cameron also called for warning pages to pop up with helpline numbers when people try to search for illegal content.
He said: "I want to talk about the internet, the impact it is having on the innocence of our children, how online pornography is corroding childhood.
"And how, in the darkest corners of the internet, there are things going on that are a direct danger to our children, and that must be stamped out.
Claire Perry MP: "We have asked companies to help families install family friendly filters"
"I'm not making this speech because I want to moralise or scaremonger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence."
But former Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre boss Jim Gamble told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was important to "get to the root cause" of illegal pornography, by catching those responsible for creating it.
He added: "You need a real deterrent, not a pop-up that paedophiles will laugh at."
But Ms Perry argued filters would make a difference, saying that the killers of schoolgirls April Jones and Tia Sharp had accessed legal pornography before moving on to images of child abuse.
She added: "It's impossible to buy this material in a sex shop... but it's possible to have it served up on a computer every day."
In his speech, Mr Cameron said possession of online pornography depicting rape would be made illegal.
Continue reading the main story''Start QuoteThe coalition government has pledged to prevent abuse of women and girls, so tackling a culture that glorifies abuse is critical for achieving this''
End QuoteHolly DustinDirector, End Violence Against Women CoalitionExisting legislation only covers publication of pornographic portrayals of rape, as opposed to possession.
"Possession of such material is already an offence in Scotland but because of a loophole in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, it is not an offence south of the border," Mr Cameron said.
"Well I can tell you today we are changing that. We are closing the loophole - making it a criminal offence to possess internet pornography that depicts rape."
The move has been welcomed by women's groups and academics who had campaigned to have "rape porn" banned.
Holly Dustin, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said the group was "delighted".
"The coalition government has pledged to prevent abuse of women and girls, so tackling a culture that glorifies abuse is critical for achieving this," she said.
"The next step is working with experts to ensure careful drafting of the law and proper resourcing to ensure the law is enforced fully."
'No safe place'Mr Cameron, who has faced criticism from Labour over cuts to Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre's funding, insisted the centre's experts and police would be given the powers needed to keep pace with technological changes on the internet.
Claire Lilley, NSPCC: "In every single child abuse image there is a victim, a child who has been abused"
"Let me be clear to any offender who might think otherwise: there is no such thing as a safe place on the internet to access child abuse material," he said.
A spokesman for Google said: "We have a zero tolerance attitude to child sexual abuse imagery. Whenever we discover it, we respond quickly to remove and report it.
"We recently donated $5m (£3.3m) to help combat this problem and are committed to continuing the dialogue with the government on these issues."
According to some experts, "default on" can create a dangerous sense of complacency, says BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.
He says internet service providers would dispute Mr Cameron's interpretation of the new measures, insisting they did not want to be seen as censors.
Sat, 27 Jul 2013 13:23
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
July 27, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC'-- In this week's address, President Obama told the American people about his speech at Knox College on Wednesday, where he discussed the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class, including having a good job, a home that is your own, quality education, a secure retirement, and affordable health care. While we have laid the foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth, there is more work to be done, and that is why over the coming weeks the President will continue to lay out his plan for growing the economy from the middle out, and create a better bargain for the middle class.
The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, July 27, 2013.
Remarks of President Barack ObamaWeekly AddressThe White HouseJuly 27, 2013
Hi everybody. On Wednesday, I spoke about what we need to do as a country to build a better bargain for the middle class '' to make sure everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead in the 21st century economy.
You see, over the past four and a half years, America has fought its way back from the worst recession of our lifetimes. We saved the auto industry, took on a broken health care system, invested in new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil, and changed a tax code too skewed in favor of the wealthiest at the expense of working families.
As a result, our businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs over the past 40 months. We produce more renewable energy than ever, and more natural gas than anyone. Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years. Our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years.
Thanks to the grit and resilience of the American people, we've cleared away the rubble of crisis and begun to lay a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth.
But as any middle-class family will tell you, we're not yet where we need to be. Trends that have been eroding middle-class security for decades '' technology that makes some jobs obsolete, global competition that makes others moveable, growing inequality and the policies that perpetuate it '' all these things still exist, and in some ways, the recession made them worse.
Reversing these trends must be Washington's highest priority. It sure is mine. But over the past couple of years in particular, Washington has taken its eye off the ball. An endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals shift focus from what needs to be done. And as Washington prepares to enter another budget debate, the stakes could not be higher. The choices we make now will determine whether or not every American has a fighting chance in the 21st century.
If we don't make the investments necessary to make America a magnet for good jobs '' in education, and manufacturing, and research, and our transportation and information networks '' we might as well hit the ''pause'' button while the rest of the world forges ahead in a global economy. And that's certainly not going to fix what ails the middle class.
Here's what will: a strategy that builds on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America, and what it takes to work your way into the middle class. Good jobs that pay good wages. An education that prepares our children and our workers for the global competition they'll face. Homeownership that's based on a solid foundation, where buyers and lenders play by the same set of rules. Affordable health care that's there for you when you get sick. A secure retirement even if you're not rich. More chances for folks to earn their way into the middle class as long as they're willing to work for it.
Over the next several weeks, in cities and towns across the country, I'll continue to lay out my ideas in each of these areas. Because reversing the forces that have conspired against the middle class for decades will require more than short-term thinking; it will require a long-term American strategy, based on steady, persistent effort.
I know there are members of both parties who understand what's at stake, and I'm open to ideas from across the political spectrum, as long as they meet the test of strengthening the prospects of hard-working families. But repealing Obamacare, gutting critical investments in our future, threatening to default on the bills this country has already racked up, or shutting down the government just because I'm for keeping it open '' none of those thing add up to an economic plan. None of that will take this country where it needs to go.
We can do this if we work together. It won't be easy, but if we take a few bold steps '' and if Washington is willing to shake off its complacency and set aside some of the slash-and-burn partisanship we've seen in recent years '' our economy will keep getting stronger.
And as long as I have the privilege of holding this office, I will spend every minute of every day doing everything in my power to make this economy work for working Americans again; to build that better bargain for the middle class; to make sure that the American Dream is something that's achievable for everybody '' not just today, but for decades to come.
Thanks, and have a great weekend.
Sat, 27 Jul 2013 19:46
Galen Winsor makes a startling statement in the above video; he claims that the Three Mile Island event was no accident. He states that the ''GE Three'' of Gregory C. Minor, Richard B. Hubbard, and Dale G. Bridenbaugh wrote the script for both The China Syndrome and for Three Mile Island. He also claims that there was a written prediction that the event would happen available a year before it actually occurred.
Winsor's statements would sound incredibly far-fetched without the following additional thoughts:
The historical record proves that the likelihood of reactor accidents is very low. The likelihood of a reactor accident happening at the same time there is a movie with a similar scenario playing in its first run in the theaters is absurdly low.There is a line in The China Syndrome about ''contaminating an area the size of Pennsylvania''. Coincidentally, that is the state that is the home of the Three Mile Island nuclear power station.Isolation valves for the backup feed pump were found shut, preventing the backup pump from supplying water to the steam generator. If the valves had not been shut, the steam generator would have never emptied and the relief valve would have never lifted. That valve would have never stuck open and the event would have never happened.Despite numerous detailed investigations, the official reports of the accident still attribute that highly unusual condition to a ''maintenance error''. If that is true, why didn't the operators know that the valves were shut? Even in the pre-TMI era, plant operators were required to maintain status logs and to be aware of maintenance taking place in their plant. http://www.iaea.org/ns/tutorials/regcontrol/assess/assess3233.htmIMHO '' it is at least remotely possible that Winsor is correct.
Others have noticed the highly unlikely coincidences over the years, but the normal reaction is dismissal, often in a tone like the one used in Agitprop for Fun and Profit.
So you want to make a left-wing propaganda movie? Then let's see what we can learn from the most successful propaganda movie in history, to judge by actual political results, The China Syndrome. It was released in 1979, after more than a decade of steady building of nuclear power plants. Since then not a single new permit for a nuclear plant has been issued in the United States.
Correlation is not causation, and to be fair, The China Syndrome benefited from the best timing any movie has probably ever had. Three Mile Island, the worst industrial accident in history with zero casualties, followed the release of The China Syndrome by twelve days. One of the characters even muses about ''contaminating an area the size of Pennsylvania.'' You just can't buy that kind of publicity.
(Emphasis in the original.)
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 05:59
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
Steven Rattner (Image credit: Daphne Borowski/Financial Times photos/Flickr)
In statements made on MSNBC's Morning Joe today, former lead auto advisor to Obama, Steven Rattner, said that the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald ''is not a journalist.''
Instead, claims Rattner, Greenwald, who broke the PRISM story along with several other major stories on government surveillance programs, is actually ''an activist portraying himself as a journalist.''
Greenwald has been attacked many times in the media and elsewhere over his reporting on the information leaked by Edward Snowden, and there is a possibility that he might testify before the European Parliament on the issue.
The members of the panel on Monday's Morning Joe were discussing how one might hide from the National Security Agency (NSA). Mika Brzezinski, the host of the show, stated that the story surrounding the NSA surveillance is not black-and-white, though she claims Greenwald believes it is.
''That's exactly the point,'' Rattner said. ''First of all, Glenn Greenwald is not a journalist, he's an activist portraying himself as a journalist.''
''That's maybe another conversation than what we're having,'' he continued. ''But you're right, it's not a black-and-white story.''
Philip Bump, writing for the Atlantic Wire, argues that, ''The argument is ridiculous, of course. Even conservative Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tacitly acknowledges Greenwald is a journalist, if the media shield law he introduced with New York's Chuck Schumer is any indicator.''
Of course, Graham is most likely no friend of Greenwald's.
Bump ultimately argues that Greenwald should be treated as a journalist because ''the best of journalism is about seeking reform.''
Indeed, as New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen stated:
We've already seen a surprisingly successful, but ultimately failed, attempt to limit NSA surveillance in the House.
Furthermore, a recent Pew poll shows that 56 percent of Americans believe that federal courts do not provide adequate limits on the telephone and internet data collected by government.
Even more notable, however, is the fact that 70 percent of Americans believe that the government uses the data they collect for purposes other than investigating terrorism.
A whopping 63 percent believe that the government is also collecting what is being said in phone calls and emails, with only 18 percent believing the Obama administration's claims that they're only collecting metadata.
Perhaps most shocking of all, 27 percent of Americans believe that the government has either listened to or read their emails.
Still, 50 percent of Americans have a positive view of the program overall, though views on the government's anti-terror policies in general have changed significantly over time.
As Jonathan Weisman reported on Sunday for the New York Times, while opposition to NSA surveillance was ''on the political fringes only a week ago [it] has built a momentum that even critics say may be unstoppable, drawing support from Republican and Democratic leaders, attracting moderates in both parties and pulling in some of the most respected voices on national security in the House.''
If this shift can be even partially attributed to Greenwald's reporting, Rattner's case would be weak.
Bump pointedly notes, ''Rattner may actually be unaware of what journalists do. Perhaps this blind spot is because the journalists he hangs out with work for Morning Joe.''
I'd love to hear your opinion, take a look at your story tips and even your original writing if you would like to get it published. I am also available for interviews on radio, television or any other format. Please email me at Admin@EndtheLie.com
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