Archive for the ‘History’ Category
Michelle Bachmann is Big Brother in drag
The name of Tuesday’s hearing of the House Select Committee on Intelligence sounded more like the subtitle to a Stanley Kubrick film: “How Disclosed NSA Programs Protect Americans, and Why Disclosure Aids Our Adversaries.”
Chairman Mike Rogers’ (R-MI) clear goal was to give the members of the intelligence committee a chance to trumpet the value of the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program and chastise Edward Snowden, the former defense contractor who fled to Hong Kong with the intent of leaking secret documents.
“In recent years, these programs…have protected the U.S and our allies from terrorist threats…blah, blah, blah…
Snowden has asserted that as a low-level analyst he had unfettered access to Americans’ private communication through connections with top technology companies established by the so-called PRISM program.
“If I target for example an email address, for example under FAA 702, and that email address sent something to you, Joe America, the analyst gets it,” Snowden wrote. “All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything. And it gets saved for a very long time – and can be extended further with waivers rather than warrants.”
He’s referring to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which according to the government “targeted acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning foreign targets located outside the United States under court oversight.” Snowden argues that where such actual oversight exists, it can be easily gamed.
Alexander flatly denied that such access exists…
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) took on Snowden directly, echoing Dick Cheney by calling him a “traitor…”
Chairman Rogers echoed Bachmann. “It is at times like these where our enemies within become almost as damaging as our enemies on the outside,” he said.
The only thing they left out – today – was the Red Menace from China. And homosexuals. Don’t forget homosexuals.
Rightwing politicians in America aren’t especially inventive or up-to-date. Their fears, the things that go boomp in the night and scare the Bejeebus out of them haven’t changed in centuries. So, just as Joe McCarthy attacked everyone from the State Department to President Eisenhower as either agents or dupes of a foreign power, the fallback position has always been that the homosexuals in positions of power are complicit with defiling the purity of our bodily fluids – and on and on.
Ted Cruz and the rest of the proto-fascist crowd, the Bachmans, the renamed phony Christian Coalition, have already started down that alley. Expect to hear it from the rest of the Republican Party as we approach the 2014 elections.
Whatever the details might be, it seems clear that dozens of technology companies — and perhaps even more — have co-operated with the NSA on its surveillance program. And they could pay a high price for doing so.
As the fallout continues to rain down from recent reports about the NSA snooping on millions of phone calls and terabytes of web traffic, the spin campaign from both the government and the technology companies allegedly involved in the program has reached a fever pitch. First there were strenuous denials from the likes of Google, Yahoo and Facebook, followed by broad hints that they only co-operated because they were trying to make things easier on their users — and then leaked reports that some were essentially forced at gunpoint to do the NSA’s bidding.
Whatever the case may be, agreeing to turn over data to the government might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but the potential downside risks of that particular slippery slope are fairly overwhelming.
The popular response to the NSA revelations may lie somewhere between mild disinterest and outright apathy, according to surveys like the one done by the Pew Center — in part because we seem to have gotten used to the idea that tech companies are monitoring our every move. But being seen as co-operating with the spy agency is still a fairly huge risk for cloud-based services. Not only that, but co-operating in even a small way makes those companies look like easy targets for further government pressure…
At this point, the actual truth of what is involved in the NSA’s so-called PRISM program remains a rapidly shifting target. The documents first published by the Guardian and the Washington Post a week ago seemed pretty cut and dried in their description of a system that allowed the spy agency “direct access” to the servers of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and about half a dozen other companies — something the Post originally said was provided voluntarily and gave the NSA broad access to information about user behavior.
Almost immediately, however, the details started to blur: not only did those companies deny providing “direct access” to their servers, but some sources said the data was only provided under duress, because of secret court orders related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act…
Denials and duress don’t address the essential question of how much cooperation ended up happening?
Iran was on the brink of an extraordinary political transformation on Saturday night after the moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani sensationally secured enough votes to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rouhani’s victory delighted reformers who have been desperate for a return to the forefront of politics after eight acrimonious years under Ahmadinejad.
It will also lift the spirit of a nation suffering from its worst financial crisis for at least two decades as a result of the sanctions imposed by western powers in the dispute over its nuclear programme.
Rouhani, who favours a policy of political openness, as well as re-establishing relations with the west, is likely to soothe international tension. He has been described by western officials as an “experienced diplomat and politician” and “fair to deal with”.
Iran’s interior minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, announced on state television on Saturday night that 72% of 50 million eligible Iranians had voted, and Rohani had won just over the 50% of the vote required to avoid a runoff.
Rouhani, a PhD graduate from Glasgow Caledonian University and a former nuclear negotiator, has pledged to find a way out of the current stalemate over Iran’s nuclear programme, which is the cause of the sanctions crushing the economy.
Minutes after he was announced as the winner, thousands of jubilant campaigners and people across Iran poured into streets to celebrate. “Ahmadi Bye Bye”, chanted a large group in central Tehran, according to witnesses, in a reference to Ahmadinejad. Car horns were honking in larger streets in Tehran and Rouhani supporters chanted.
The Iranian currency, the rial, recovered in value against the dollar by at least 6% on Saturday. Later on Saturday night, Rouhani issued a statement on television, saying “a new season of solidarity” had begun following a result that brought “rationality and moderation” as well as “peace, stability and hope”…
The turnout for Friday’s vote was so high that polling stations stayed open for five hours longer than planned.
Speaking after casting his vote in Tehran, Khamenei had urged a mass turnout to rebut suggestions by American officials that the election enjoyed little legitimacy.
“I recently heard that someone at the US national security council said, ‘We do not accept this election in Iran’,” he said. “We don’t give a damn.”
All of the papier-mâché lovers of democracy from the UK to the US, from Cameron to Obama, have lined up to give advice. The best thing they could do – for a change – is keep their sticky fingers out of the pot of oil and natural gas that belongs to Iran and shut up for a change.
All prior blather about negotiating in good faith with Iran never came to pass. Just election-speak. Fact remains that even under the strictures of the Iranian theocracy, the turnout for the election was greater than anything Uncle Sugar has turned out in decades. A multi-party, multi-choice election unlike anything allowed in the United States.
Our new best buddies
The United States made plans to send arms to Syrian rebels several weeks ago, Obama administration sources told The Washington Post.
This week’s announcement shipments of rifles and ammunition would be funneled to the beleaguered rebels was based on new evidence the Syrian regime had gassed civilians; however, the Post said Saturday President Obama had ordered officials to start planning the supply operation in late April.
The internal debate boiled down to State Department diplomats who feared Syria — and the entire Middle East — was descending into chaos, and military officers and Obama political aides who were concerned about the complexity of the resupply mission and the ramifications of the U.S. involvement in another regional conflict.
Officials told the Post the CIA and other agencies had used the time well. Covert bases were established in Jordan and Turkey to handle the weapons transfers, and contacts were made with rebel leaders inside Syria…
The Post said the planned peace talks in Geneva this month were derailed by Assad’s recent successes on the battlefield. Sources said the negotiations would likely not begin before fall.
In the meantime, the United States will be trying to work out a deal with Russia that will somehow lead the way to a negotiated settlement between Assad and the rebels. Sources told the Post the Obama administration preferred a deal that would preserve Syria’s infrastructure and institutions rather than an outright overthrow of the government, which would create more chaos on the ground.
And everyone involved – of course – is prepared to listen to the wisdom in the White House, State Department and Congress after all the success we’ve had in bringing peace to the region over the past 65 years, eh?
Picking the time to announce Obama’s satisfaction with military analysis from spy agencies in England, France and Foggy Bottom was easy enough. The simple need to try to get Americans talking about anything other than the forgotten piece of paper we call the Bill of Rights works just fine inside the Beltway.
Abnormal Neanderthal bone (above) compared with normal Neanderthal specimen (below)
A Neanderthal living 120,000 years ago had a cancer that is common today, according to a fossil study.
A fossilised Neanderthal rib found in a shallow cave at Krapina, Croatia, shows signs of a bone tumour…The discovery is the oldest evidence yet of a tumour in the human fossil record, say US scientists.
The research, published in the journal PLOS One, gives clues to the complex history of cancer in humans.
Until now, the earliest known bone cancers have been identified in ancient Egyptian remains from about 1,000-4,000 years ago.
“It’s the oldest tumour found in the human fossil record,” Dr David Frayer, the University of Kansas anthropologist who led the US team, told BBC News.
“It shows that living in a relatively unpolluted environment doesn’t necessarily protect you against cancer, even if you were a Neanderthal living 120,000 years ago.”
The fossil was uncovered from an important archaeological site that has yielded almost 900 ancient human bones, along with stone tools…The tumour was diagnosed by a medical radiologist from X-rays and CT scans.
Although efforts to extract ancient DNA from the Neanderthal fossil have proved unsuccessful, the researchers hope other fossils may shed light on cancer in prehistoric humans.
Commenting on the study, Kat Arney, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Some people think that cancer is only a modern disease, but there’s evidence from fossils, bones and mummies that it’s actually many thousands of years old.
Opens up a whole new range of scary possibilities – but, I’m not even up to an educated guess on this narrow topic. So, I’ll shut up.
For 75 years, Finland’s expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It’s like a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys that can even be used as a bed. And some say it helped Finland achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.
It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1930s and it’s designed to give all children in Finland, no matter what background they’re from, an equal start in life.
The maternity package – a gift from the government – is available to all expectant mothers.
It contains bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress.
With the mattress in the bottom, the box becomes a baby’s first bed. Many children, from all social backgrounds, have their first naps within the safety of the box’s four cardboard walls.
Mothers have a choice between taking the box, or a cash grant, currently set at 140 euros, but 95% opt for the box as it’s worth much more.
The tradition dates back to 1938. To begin with, the scheme was only available to families on low incomes, but that changed in 1949.
“Not only was it offered to all mothers-to-be but new legislation meant in order to get the grant, or maternity box, they had to visit a doctor or municipal pre-natal clinic before their fourth month of pregnancy,” says Heidi Liesivesi, who works at Kela – the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.
So the box provided mothers with what they needed to look after their baby, but it also helped steer pregnant women into the arms of the doctors and nurses of Finland’s nascent welfare state…
At 75 years old, the box is now an established part of the Finnish rite of passage towards motherhood, uniting generations of women…
Encouraging good parenting has been part of the maternity box policy all along.
“Babies used to sleep in the same bed as their parents and it was recommended that they stop,” says Panu Pulma, professor in Finnish and Nordic History at the University of Helsinki. “Including the box as a bed meant people started to let their babies sleep separately from them…”
He also thinks including a picture book has had a positive effect, encouraging children to handle books, and, one day, to read.
And in addition to all this, Pulma says, the box is a symbol. A symbol of the idea of equality, and of the importance of children.
Symbolism not lost on one of the best educated populations in the world. Another portion of a governmental ethic that places equal opportunity and childrens’ wellness above most political issues.
Jennifer Ferrell stopped so her husband could take her picture. Then she waved goodbye to her 3-year-old twins and marched into the Legislative Building to get handcuffed.
“I’m excited. I’m not nervous,” the 34-year-old Raleigh resident said as she walked in a line of demonstrators. “I’m passionate. I’m not crazy.”
For weeks now, Ferrell heard about protesters getting arrested at the statehouse to demonstrate against the Republican majority’s legislative agenda. And like many Monday, she felt compelled to add her voice to the chants and her wrists to the handcuffs. “I knew it was time to stop watching and do it myself,” she said.
Authorities arrested 151 people in the rotunda between the legislative chambers during the latest “Moral Monday” protest – the largest mass arrest since the N.C. NAACP began organizing the weekly civil disobedience events in late April.
The number is nearly the equivalent to the arrests at the four prior protests combined and brings the total above 300 this session…
The growing momentum is reflective of the increased organizing muscle behind the rallies. The N.C. Democratic Party, outside political groups, student organizations and labor unions are openly promoting the protests…
The protesters’ list of grievances was as diverse as the crowd: education spending, voter ID, women’s rights, the elimination of the estate tax, private school vouchers and more…
Doug Swaim, a Charlotte resident, came to Raleigh with a busload of fellow congregants from the Unitarian church in Mecklenburg County.
He worries that Republicans are working quickly to “lock in radically conservative policies.”
“They’re not stupid, they understand the demographics of North Carolina, they know they only have a short time to do this,” Swaim said. “I’m sure they believe in what they’re doing, but I like to call this the last gasp of the angry white man.”
Until you do it, you really haven’t an idea how much satisfaction you will feel putting your physical presence on the line for justice. Most folks never happen to be in the right place at the right time. Even national and regional challenges to the corruption that is American politics take a great deal of logistics to put together. And, let’s face it, most folks have lives and families that demand a higher priority.
But, I must tell you – it’s been 53 years, now, since the first time I stepped forward to join with friends to break an unjust law. Makes you feel like a real American.
Remember when the United States did projects like these? Instead of “democracy and freedom” flowing from the barrel of a gun?
I think we stopped building dams when we stopped building bridges.
Thanks, Barry Ritholtz
The remains of dozens of Palestinians killed by Israelis in fighting during the war of 1948 which led to the creation of the state of Israel have been found in a mass grave in Tel Aviv’s Jaffa district.
An official at the Muslim cemetery there told AFP news agency that the grisly find occurred on Wednesday when ground subsided as workers carried out renovations, revealing six chambers full of skeletons.
Jaffa fisherman Atar Zeinab, 80, says that as a teenager during the final months of fighting in 1948, he helped to collect the Arab dead in the area south of Jaffa and bring them for hasty burial in the cemetery, the area’s main graveyard.
“I carried to the cemetery 60 bodies during a period of three or four months,” he told AFP. “We used to find the people in the street and most of the time we didn’t know who they were.”
He said that the danger of being hit by flying bullets or grenade fragments was such that bodies were dumped one on top of the other in existing family crypts in the cemetery, contrary to Muslim custom.
“We carried them early in the morning or in the night,” he added. “We put women, children and men in the same place…nobody prayed for these people.”
Jaffa was at the time a Palestinian town, but there was a forced exodus of most of its Arab population when it fell to the fledgling Israeli army and rightwing Jewish armed gangs.
In 1950 it was incorporated into the city of Tel Aviv which was renamed Tel Aviv-Jaffa…
Around 760,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in what they call the “Nakba” or “catastrophe” of 1948.
More of the history of America’s “democratic and compassionate” ally in the Middle East – exposed to the light of day.