Posts Tagged ‘government’
My bowling partner
US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged the European Union to postpone a planned ban on EU financial assistance to Israeli organisations in the occupied Palestinian territories…
Kerry made the request at a meeting with EU foreign ministers on Saturday at which he also called on them to support Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which resumed on July 29 after a nearly three-year hiatus.
The EU imposed restrictions in July, citing its frustration over the continued expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in territory captured by Israeli forces in the 1967 Middle East War.
Asked about her response to Kerry’s comments about the aid guidelines, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters the guidelines were simply “putting down on paper what is currently the EU position”…
The EU guidelines render Israeli entities operating in the occupied territories ineligible for EU grants, prizes or loans, beginning next year.
They angered Israel’s rightist government, which accused the Europeans of harming Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and responded by announcing curbs on EU aid projects for thousands of West Bank Palestinians.
Palestinians praised the guidelines as a concrete step against illegal settlement construction, which they fear will deny them a viable state…
…Many in Israel worry about possible knock-on effects the EU steps may have on individuals or companies based in Israel that might be involved in business in the settlements, deemed illegal by the international community.
Israeli-Palestinian peace has been Kerry’s main foreign policy initiative since becoming secretary of state on February 1.
Which delineates  how little Kerry has achieved since he took up his job as substitute for Hillary and  how little anyone expects him to achieve – since the United States doesn’t wish to nudge the apartheid government of Israel into anything like justice or peace.
The issues needing to be sorted after more than six decades of phony negotiations include borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the removal of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem. That’s all.
The Postal Service takes pictures of every piece of mail processed in the United States – 160 billion last year – and keeps them on hand for up to a month.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the photos of the exterior of mail pieces are used primarily for the sorting process, but they are available for law enforcement, if requested.
The photos have been used “a couple of times” by to trace letters in criminal cases, Donahoe told the AP on Thursday, most recently involving ricin-laced letters sent to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“We don’t snoop on customers,” said Donahoe, adding that there’s no big database of the images because they are kept on nearly 200 machines at processing facilities across the country. Each machine retains only the images of the mail it processes.
“It’s done by machine, so there’s no central area where any of this information would be,” he said. “It’s extremely expensive to keep pictures of billions of pieces of mail. So there’s no need for us to do that…”
The automated mail tracking program was created after the deadly anthrax attacks in 2001 so the Postal Service could more easily track hazardous substances and keep people safe, Donahoe said…
Processing machines take photographs so software can read the images to create a barcode that is stamped on the mail to show where and when it was processed, and where it will be delivered, Donahoe said.
Don’t you feel safer, now?
The next question is less obvious. Is there any branch of government that isn’t tracking us?
Former FBI agent says “YES”
The real capabilities and behavior of the US surveillance state are almost entirely unknown to the American public because, like most things of significance done by the US government, it operates behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy. But a seemingly spontaneous admission this week by a former FBI counterterrorism agent provides a rather startling acknowledgment of just how vast and invasive these surveillance activities are.
…on CNN’s Out Front with Erin Burnett…anonymous government officials are claiming that they are now focused on telephone calls between Russell and Tsarnaev that took place both before and after the attack to determine if she had prior knowledge of the plot or participated in any way.
On Wednesday night, Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two. He quite clearly insisted that they could:
BURNETT: Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It’s not a voice mail. It’s just a conversation. There’s no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?
CLEMENTE: “No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.
BURNETT: “So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.
CLEMENTE: “No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not…”
On Thursday night, Clemente again appeared on CNN, this time with host Carol Costello, and she asked him about those remarks. He reiterated what he said the night before but added expressly that “all digital communications in the past” are recorded and stored:
Let’s repeat that last part: “no digital communication is secure“, by which he means not that any communication is susceptible to government interception as it happens (although that is true), but far beyond that: all digital communications – meaning telephone calls, emails, online chats and the like – are automatically recorded and stored and accessible to the government after the fact.
In my own life and experience I came to accept this fact decades ago. After all, as a civil rights activist…my first face-to-face confrontation with the FBI was at the front door of the factory where I worked – in the 1960′s. But, I knew as a matter of practice that for the rest of my life there would be some record kept of what I said and did.
I’ve never had any reason to doubt that continues – whether our nation is headed by a prick like Reagan who gave the NSA their first breakthrough budget or a conservative Harvard Democrat like Barack Obama. The only difference being technology now allows for warehousing and data mining every electronic conversation. Trusting the government of the United States to defend the Bill of Rights at root and cause is a fool’s game.
Robert Reich must teach a helluva course at the University of California. The former Secretary of Labor offers a clear understanding of wages, economics and life for folks who work for a living.
Thanks for the video.
Watching America’s leaders scramble in the closing days of 2012 to avoid a “fiscal cliff” that would plunge the economy into recession was yet another illustration of an inconvenient truth: messy politics remains a major driver of economic developments.
In some cases during 2012, politics was a force for good: consider Prime Minister Mario Monti’s ability to pull Italy back from the brink of financial turmoil. But, in other cases, like Greece, political dysfunction aggravated economic problems.
Close and defining linkages between politics and economics are likely to persist in 2013. Having said this, we should also expect much greater segmentation in terms of impact – and that the consequences will affect both individual countries and the global system as a whole.
In some countries – for example, Italy, Japan, and the United States – politics will remain the primary driver of economic-policy approaches. But elsewhere – China, Egypt, Germany, and Greece come to mind – the reverse will be true, with economics becoming a key determinant of political outcomes.
This duality in causation speaks to a world that will become more heterogeneous in 2013 – and in at least two ways: it will lack unifying political themes, and it will be subject to multi-speed growth and financial dynamics that imply a range of possible scenarios for multilateral policy interactions…
How politics and economics interact nationally and globally is one of the important questions for 2013 and beyond. There are three scenarios: good economics and effective politics provide the basis for a growing and more cooperative global economy; bad economics interact with dysfunctional politics to ruin the day; or the world muddles through, increasingly unstable, as a tug of war between economics and politics plays out, with no clear result or direction.
Part of the answer depends on what happens in three countries in particular – China, Germany, and the US. Their economic and political stability is essential to the well-being of a world economy that has yet to recover fully from the 2008 global financial crisis.
Current indications, albeit incomplete, suggest that the three will continue to anchor the global economy in 2013. That is the good news. The bad news is that their anchor may remain both tentative and insufficient to restore the level of growth and financial stability to which billions of people aspire.
Mohamed El-Erian pretty much speaks in moderate terms even when discussing immoderate and opportunist politicians. He’s a nice guy. Even for a NY Jets fan.
He’s worth listening to if for nothing else his experience within and without the boundaries of international economics. Between the IMF and PIMCO, politicians stand in line asking him to run for elective office. But, then, he’d have to spend even more time with politicians. Most of whom – I’m afraid – aren’t any better than the hyenas we have in Congress.
LUCKNOW: The death of the 23-old Delhi gang-rape victim Nirbhaya in Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital triggered a series of protests in Lucknow on Saturday. Thousands of students from various schools and colleges and activists especially women demanded implementation of strict laws related to crimes against women and speedy trial of the rape cases. Most of the protestors demanded death penalty for the accused in the rape cases.
Holding banners and placards, which read ‘Ladki ki nahi, insaniyat ki maut hai’; ‘Delhi ho ya Aashiana, nahi chalega koi bahana’; ‘Kapde nahi, soch badlo’, ‘Prime minister awas ki suraksha kyu badha di gayi- Kyu?? Kya desh ki agli abla Manmohan Singh hai?’, the protestors demanded strict law against rape, as people from different walks of life continued to gather at the Gandhi Memorial till late in the evening to raise their voice against women safety. Candle marches were also carried out in support of rape victims…
…Tahira Hasan, national vice-president of All India Progressive Women Association said that we want to build pressure on the government to call an emergency session of Parliament to form strict law for the crimes against women. She added, “Many politicians from various parties are passing sexually offensive comments. The women member of such parties should condemn their colleagues for passing such comments.”
Young men and boys also gathered at Gandhi memorial to pay condolence to the girl and support the cause. Sudhanshu Bajpai, convenor, All India Student Association said, “Our politician have Z-plus security, while common man is unsafe. We want safety for our citizens.”
India is not alone, of course, in electing politicians to lead who rely only on the past to get re-elected. Working hard, fighting for standards which illuminate the future is beyond the ken of many if not most of the self-centered breed who take up politics as a career.
They ensure the best of everything for themselves while looking down in the idea of law and order, healthcare, safety and justice for ordinary folk. They personify the hypocrisy of the narrow class of nterests they truly represent.
The lie that prosecuting bank fraud will destabilize the economy is what is REALLY destroying the economy
The Departments of Justice and Treasury are pretending that criminally prosecuting criminal banksters will destabilize the economy. The exact opposite is true.
Failing to prosecute criminal fraud has been destabilizing the economy since at least 2007 … and will cause huge crashes in the future. After all, the main driver of economic growth is a strong rule of law.
Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that we have to prosecute fraud or else the economy won’t recover:
The legal system is supposed to be the codification of our norms and beliefs, things that we need to make our system work. If the legal system is seen as exploitative, then confidence in our whole system starts eroding. And that’s really the problem that’s going
I think we ought to go do what we did in the S&L [crisis] and actually put many of these guys in prison. Absolutely. These are not just white-collar crimes or little accidents. There were victims. That’s the point. There were victims all over the
Economists focus on the whole notion of incentives. People have an incentive sometimes to behave badly, because they can make more money if they can cheat. If our economic system is going to work then we have to make sure that what they gain when they cheat is offset by a system of penalties…
In 2004, the FBI warned publicly of “an epidemic of mortgage fraud.” But the government did nothing, and less than nothing, delivering instead low interest rates, deregulation and clear signals that laws would not be enforced. The signals were not subtle: on one occasion the director of the Office of Thrift Supervision came to a conference with copies of the Federal Register and a chainsaw. There followed every manner of scheme to fleece the unsuspecting ….
This was fraud, perpetrated in the first instance by the government on the population, and by the rich on the poor…
The bottom line is that the government has it exactly backwards. By failing to prosecute criminal fraud, the government is destabilizing the economy … and ensuring future crashes…
Indeed, the government has done everything it can to cover up fraud, and has been actively encouraging criminal fraud and attacking those trying to blow the whistle.
RTFA. I’ve posted only a portion of this analysis, this plea for law and order, this plea for honesty on the part of a government which so far has refused to uphold the laws of this land.
Scattering ashes of a loved one mixed with flower petals
The local authority has announced a fivefold increase, from 400 yuan/$64 to 2,000 yuan/$320, in subsidies to encourage Shanghai residents to consider the sea option.
Starting next year, Shanghai will subsidize families choosing a sea burial by 1,000 yuan and the another 1,000 yuan will go to pay service providers to cover costs such as ship tickets and insurance, Lu Chunling, director of funeral management under Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, said…”Those opting for burial at sea will save 1 square meter of land in Shanghai, and that would cost about 24,000 yuan if it was a burial plot,” said Lu.
With an increasingly elderly population and 110,000 deaths annually, Shanghai authorities and cemetery operators have been promoting sea burials since 1991…However, most people still shun the option because it is traditionally believed that the soul can find peace only when the body is buried on land…
“Sea burials in Shanghai have increased by 5 to 8 percent each year since 1991,” said Lu. The local government offered a 200 yuan subsidy for each sea burial from 2002 and raised the amount to 400 yuan in 2007.
“It’s not all about money, there are cases of people opting for a sea burial without claiming anything,” said Lu. “We’re just sending the signal that it’s the most environmentally friendly way of burial and our government is encouraging residents to do it.”
Shi Hong, 34, from Zhoushan, Zhejiang province, lost his wife last year and said he chose burial at sea because both he and his wife were Buddhists and that was her last wish…”She liked the idea of a sea burial because Zhoushan (the site of one of Buddhism’s sacred mountains in China) has a relatively good location for the ceremony,” Shi said.
Makes good sense all round. Death in all societies is associated with the stoniest of primitive and superstitious beliefs – it still ain’t an easy task growing acceptance, suggesting change.
Protests over a recent gang rape quickly gained force over the weekend, tapping into longstanding fury against entrenched corruption and lopsided justice, and leading to clashes with the police.
Seven days of demonstrations peaked Sunday, as thousands of people joined women’s and students’ groups despite a hastily enacted ban on protesting in New Delhi. The crowds taunted the police and attacked the car of a member of Parliament. The police, in turn, fired tear gas and water cannons, beat protesters with bamboo sticks and arrested dozens.
What corrupt, entrenched politicians and their police flunkies call “even-handed”.
“Many students who were protesting peacefully were attacked,” said Jayati Ghosh, a professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who had joined the protest with her daughter. “These are patriotic and respectable citizens. You cannot respond to them in this ham-handed manner.”
Kulsoom Rashid, 27, rubbed her eyes and said she had been tear-gassed. “This is how they are responding,” she said, seething. “Hundreds of rapists are running scot-free, and the entire Delhi police is standing here to stop people like me?”
By late afternoon Sunday, political parties had joined the crowd, increasing the number of confrontations with the authorities…
After several recent, highly publicized rape cases, India has been struggling to come to grips with the scale of the vastly underreported problem. Even when rapes are reported, suspects are rarely found and arrested.
In the most recent case, a 23-year-old medical student who boarded what she thought was a public bus on Dec. 16 was brutally raped and beaten nearly to death by a group of men. Six suspects are in jail.
The rapid reaction has done little to stem public anger. On Sunday, protesters jostled with the police, calling them “cowardly,” “corrupt” and “inept,” as they tried to push through the cordon…
“These people have lost patience with a government that has no sense of justice, no sense of accountability and is totally corrupt at the top,” said Prem Shankar Jha, a former editor of the Hindustan Times.
You can witness the reality of what is called democracy in many countries by how police are allowed to treat peaceful demonstrations. Regular readers will know I hold no brief for anarchists and other loonies. They deserve what they get when they try to burn down London or Seattle. But, I was able to follow the course of these demonstrations quite closely over the weekend – via al Jazeera and CCTV9.
The Indian police were merciless in their attacks on peaceful demonstrators, ordinary people, mostly young people, marching because they are fed-up with institutional corruption and injustice. It reminded me of nothing more than early days in our own civil rights movement, North and South.
Do you ever get the creep feeling that store mannequins are … watching you? Well, that feeling may now be justified. Italian display form company Almax has recently introduced its EyeSee line of mannequins, that are equipped with cameras and microprocessors in their heads.
The idea behind the mannequins is that they could be located in storefront windows or specific areas of the store, where they would gather demographic data on the customers. Using facial recognition software, they can reportedly determine things such as a person’s age range, gender and race. The mannequins will also keep track of the number of people to pass through a certain area within a given amount of time, and how much time each person spends there.
Almax suggests that store owners could then use that data to develop targeted marketing strategies, to place salespeople in the parts of the store with the highest traffic, to see what times of day are busiest (and with what sort of customers), and to gauge the effectiveness of window displays or the popularity of displayed items.
Needless to say, privacy concerns are definitely an issue. According to the company, all the data is processed within the mannequins, so no outside computers are involved, and nothing is transmitted. Nonetheless, that doesn’t change the fact that the mannequins would actually be watching you – and scrutinizing you.
Will there be anyone working in the store, the chain of stores, with the courage to blow the whistle after the FBI or some inquisitive arm of the government delivers an executive order ordering the mannequin snoops to be hooked up to NSA supercomputers?
After all, that individual would be breaking one of the legal pillars holding up the Department of Homeland Security. You do not have the right to challenge or even speak publicly about being asked to spy for the government.