European commission demands privacy guarantees from the US


Viviane Reding, justice commissioner of the European Commission

The European commission has raised concerns directly with the US administration about the threat posed to the privacy of EU citizens from the sort of data monitoring highlighted by the leaking of NSA documents to the Guardian by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Viviane Reding, the vice-president of the commission who is in charge of justice, challenged the US attorney general, Eric Holder, at a meeting in Washington last month and will raise the matter again at an EU-US meeting on Thursday in Dublin…

The intervention by the commission follows a warning by a senior member of the European parliament that the EU would redouble its efforts to strengthen the proposed EU-US agreement, in the light of the Guardian disclosures. Hannes Swoboda, leader of the socialist group in the parliament, told the FT: “With all the information we’ve found out in recent days about how easily the US spies on people’s private data I think it will be difficult for the Americans to oppose a strong data protection agreement.

“This issue is very critical for us in Europe … There will be growing resistance against an agreement with the US unless there are some clear guarantees from their side that our European principles of data protection are respected.”

Anyone else remember back when our Presidents claimed world leadership in privacy, protecting civil liberties of Americans?

Reding’s spokeswoman was critical of some EU member states, believed to include Britain, which she said showed little appetite for protecting privacy, and were pressing ahead with introducing new powers to give states greater access to data.

Mina Andreeva said: “National security is a matter for the member states, but this case goes to show that a clear legal framework for the protection of personal data is not a luxury or not a constraint: it is a fundamental right…

While our politicians prattle about how great we are at avoiding slippery slopes, we get to watch the Bill of Rights disappear under the opportunist muck of what has become the military-industrial-security complex. Guaranteeing our safety by taking away our privacy.

Why are US nuclear bombs still based in the Netherlands?

Some 22 US nuclear weapons are stored on Dutch territory, says former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers…Mr Lubbers, a centre-right prime minister from 1982-94, said they were stored underground in strong-rooms at the Volkel air base in Brabant.

He made the revelation in a documentary for National Geographic – saying: “I would never have thought those silly things would still be there in 2013.”

The presence of nuclear weapons on Dutch soil has long been rumoured…However, Mr Lubbers is believed to be the most senior person to confirm their existence.

“I think they are an absolutely pointless part of a tradition in military thinking,” Mr Lubbers said.

The Telegraaf newspaper quoted experts as saying the weapons held at Volkel were B61 bombs that were developed in the US in the 1960s. At 50 kilotons, they are four times the strength of atom bombs used on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima or Nagasaki at the end of World War II…

The “poorly kept secret” of the existence of nuclear weapons in concrete vaults emerged in 2010 in the classified US documents published by Wikileaks, reported NRC Handelsblad newspaper.

It was mentioned in a report on a conversation involving US Ambassador to Berlin Philip Murphy, US diplomat Phil Gordon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s national security adviser, Christoph Heusgen.

In November 2010, then-Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal declined to give any explanation to the Dutch parliament.

A spokesman for the Royal Dutch Air Force was quoted by Dutch broadcaster NOS on Monday as saying these issues “are never spoken of“…”[Mr Lubbers], as former prime minister, knows that well,” he added.

Just as American liberals or conservatives fall right in line with every wish of the Pentagon and our military-industrial complex, governments around the world click their heels and listen to Uncle Sugar. It’s easier than thinking for yourself. Less trouble than cutting the umbilical cord to American death machines – and the dollars that flow into government treasuries and, sometimes, Swiss bank accounts.

Just as Obama uses the same excuses as George W Bush, governments of convenient coalitions – Center-Left, Center-Right, patriotic, independent politicians in other nations pay close attention to the people who own the United States – and never get out of line. Transparency is a cool word that still depends upon who owns the house and the windows.

Neanderthal clue to cancer origins


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.