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Edward Snowden has documents on how to evade NSA surveillance, journalist says


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Journalist Glenn Greenwald speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, July 14, 2013. Greenwald, The Guardian journalist who first reported Edward Snowden’s disclosures of U.S. surveillance programs says the former National Security Agency analyst has “very specific blueprints of how the NSA do what they do.”(AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

RIO DE JANEIRO — Edward Snowden has very sensitive “blueprints” detailing how the National Security Agency operates that would allow someone who read them to evade or even duplicate NSA surveillance, a journalist close to the intelligence leaker said Sunday.

Glenn Greenwald, a columnist with The Guardian newspaper who closely communicates with Snowden and first reported on his intelligence leaks, told The Associated Press that the former NSA systems analyst has “literally thousands of documents” that constitute “basically the instruction manual for how the NSA is built.”

“In order to take documents with him that proved that what he was saying was true he had to take ones that included very sensitive, detailed blueprints of how the NSA does what they do,” Greenwald said in the interview in Brazil, where he lives. He said the interview took place about four hours after his last interaction with Snowden, with whom he said he’s in almost daily contact.

Snowden emerged from weeks of hiding in a Moscow airport Friday, and said he was willing to stop leaking secrets about U.S. surveillance programs if Russia would give him asylum until he can move on to Latin America.

Greenwald told The AP that Snowden has insisted the information from those documents not be made public. The journalist said it “would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it.”

Despite their sensitivity, the journalist said he didn’t think that disclosure of the documents would prove harmful to Americans or their national security.

“I think it would be harmful to the U.S. government, as they perceive their own interests, if the details of those programs were revealed,” said the 46-year-old former constitutional and civil rights lawyer who has written three books contending the government has violated personal rights in the name of protecting national security.

He has previously said the documents have been encrypted to help ensure their safekeeping.

Greenwald, who has also co-authored a series of articles in Rio de Janeiro’s O Globo newspaper focusing on NSA actions in Latin America, said he expected to continue publishing further stories based on other of Snowden’s documents for the next four months.

Upcoming stories would likely include details on “other domestic spying programs that have yet to be revealed” which are similar in scope to those he has been reporting on. He did not provide any further details on the nature of those programs.

Greenwald said he deliberately avoids talking to Snowden about issues related to where the former analyst might seek asylum to avoid possible legal problems himself.

Snowden is believed to be stuck in the transit area of Moscow’s main international airport, where he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23. He’s had offers of asylum from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, but because his U.S. passport has been revoked, the logistics of reaching whichever country he chooses are complicated.

Still, Greenwald said that Snowden remains “calm and tranquil,” despite his predicament.

“I haven’t sensed an iota of remorse or regret or anxiety over the situation that he’s in,” said Greenwald, speaking at a hotel in Rio de Janeiro, where he’s lived for the past eight years. “He’s of course tense and focused on his security and his short-term well-being to the best extent that he can, but he’s very resigned to the fact that things might go terribly wrong and he’s at peace with that.”

via Edward Snowden has documents on how to evade NSA surveillance, journalist says | syracuse.com.

In Thailand: Where monks and money mix- Buddhist Scandals


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This file picture taken on March 22, 2012 shows Thai buddhist monks looking at discounted notebooks displayed at the Commart Thailand in Bangkok. The behaviour of Thailand’s Buddhist clergy has been thrust under the spotlight after footage emerged of monks settling into a flight on a private jet, sporting sunglasses and iPods while one apparently carried on a luxury bag. — FILE PHOTO: AFP

The case against Thai monk Luang Pu Nenkham Chattigo gets more jaw-dropping by the day.

Last month, the 33-year-old Buddhist monk hit the headlines when a video showing him sporting aviator shades and sitting in a private jet with a Louis Vuitton bag by his side made its rounds on YouTube.

Last week, the country’s anti-money laundering office highlighted suspicious activity in his bank accounts.

A few days later, another set of allegations surfaced that he had been intimate with several women, including a then underaged girl.

Now there are even suspicions of drug trafficking.

Thailand, with more than 50 million Buddhists and more than 290,000 monks, is no stranger to monastic scandals.

The National Office of Buddhism reprimanded about 300 monks and novices last year for misconduct like drinking alcohol and having sex, according to an Associated Press report. Some have been caught with drugs and pornography.

Officially, monks have to uphold 227 precepts. These include not receiving money or buying or selling anything with money. In reality, though, the relationship between its most charismatic monks and money can be ambiguous, given the sizeable trade in amulets and the other religious artefacts in the country.

This is popular Buddhism as practised by everyday people – less oriented towards scripture and spiritual growth and more interested in mortal concerns like health, wealth and physical safety.

In his book Mediums, Monks and Amulets, the late anthropologist Pattana Kitiarsa described it as “a large scale, cross-social spectrum of beliefs and practices – incorporating the supernatural powers of spirit, deity, and magic – that have emerged out of the interplay between animism, supernaturalism, folk Brahmanism and the worship of Chinese deities, and state sponsored Theravada Buddhism”.

It is common, for example, to see buyers of new cars rush to get them blessed by monks.

Buddhist soldiers on dangerous assignments wear amulets bearing the likeness of popular monks to protect them from harm.

There are stampedes for particularly “powerful” amulets. In one, five years ago in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, a woman died.

Inevitably, a lot of money changes hands, in the forms of donations or payments for amulets blessed by popular monks to raise funds for their monasteries and other causes. The value of these amulets rise in secondary markets overseas, especially when the media runs articles on the good fortune or fortunate encounters by people who wear them.

The special Chatukham-Rammathep amulets that caused a stampede in 2007 were estimated to have generated a 40 billion baht industry in that year alone.

A large portion of these tax free baht go towards good causes. One of Thailand’s most iconic monks, Luang Phor Khun Parisutto, reportedly donated millions of baht towards health services and schools.

Unsurprisingly though, the large sums of money also attract the attention of less than righteous characters.

When Luang Pu Nenkham’s private jet video first caused an outcry last month, the National Office of Buddhism’s director-general Nopparat Benjawatananun called the monk’s behaviour inappropriate but indicated that modernity had made it harder for monks to draw the line between necessity and extravagance.

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He told the AP then: “When Lord Buddha was alive, there wasn’t anything like this. There were no cars, smartphones or cameras, so the rules were much simpler.” As more and more people seek monks out for luck, fame and fortune, this is a demarcation that will be increasingly difficult to make.

via In Thailand: Where monks and money mix.

‘Our Liberty Cannot Be Guarded but by the Freedom of the Press’



Attorney General Eric Holder. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Democrats and Republicans working together in Washington to address abuses of basic liberties? Bipartisan responses to the challenges that arise in the gray area where balances are struck between constitutional guarantees and national security demands? Impossible. Can’t happen. There is no way in these days of fury and scandal-mongering.

Actually, there is a way.

A genuine left-right coalition has developed over the past several days in response to the revelation that the Department of Justice seized Associated Press telephone records in its recent investigation of a CIA leak. And that coalition is likely to strengthen in light of the news that the DOJ investigated the reporting activities of Fox News’s chief Washington correspondent as a potential crime—“solicitation” of leaks. The latter development, in many senses more troubling than the former, calls into question whether basic protections for both reporters and whistleblowers are crumbling after more than a decade of Patriot Act abuses, Bush and Obama administration excesses and the politicization of debates about what were once accepted standards for protecting the public’s right to know and the privacy rights that underpin it.

In moments so rigorously partisan as these, many members of Congress will retreat to their corners, mounting attacks or making excuses. But there are some serious legislators, libertarian-leaning Republicans and progressive Democrats, who understand the urgency of the moment.

They get that the revelations about DOJ overreach reveal a threat not just to freedom of the press but to the most necessary of press functions: the work of revealing for citizens the details of what their government is doing in their name but without their informed consent. None of these members are foolish or casual in their approach; they understand that it is necessary for the government to protect against the leaking of information that could endanger people. But they also understand that it is possible to provide that protection within a constitutional context.

Perhaps most importantly, they get that the best way to protect the First Amendment guarantee of a free press is to protect the Fourth Amendment guarantee of privacy. Journalists do not need—and should not seek—an array of special protections to do their jobs. But journalists and their sources do need to know that information can be shared without the threat of unwarranted—and self-serving—government surveillance of necessary conversations.

It is with this in mind that four very different members of Congress (Michigan Republican Justin Amash, South Carolina Republican Mick Mulvaney, California Democrat Zoe Lofgren and Colorado Democrat Jared Polis) have proposed a precise and appropriate response to the overreach by the Department of Justice. While the White House and key members of the Senate are backing a Shield Law, which protects journalists from being required to reveal sources, the House members are going deeper—to protect not just journalists but all citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” They seek a Telephone Records Protection Act, which requires court approval when the government demands telephone records from service providers.

“The Justice Department’s seizure of the AP’s phone records—likely without the sign-off of a single judge—raises serious First and Fourth Amendment concerns,” says Amash, who has emerged as a hero to libertarian-leaning conservatives. “Regardless of whether DOJ violates the legitimate privacy expectations of reporters or ordinary Americans, we deserve to know that the federal government can’t seize our records without judicial review.”

Polis, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says, “Americans of all political stripes were shocked to find out that the Department of Justice had been accessing telephone records of reporters at the Associated Press. The Department of Justice claims that they operated within the confines of the law, which makes it abundantly clear that we need to provide a higher level of protection against government intrusion into an individual’s private records.”

This is an essential equation for all Americans who value the right to privacy outlined in the Fourth Amendment. But it is especially essential when it comes to constructing a press system that serves the intention expressed by the founders: to inform citizens so that they can, with their votes, steer the affairs of state.

This is what Thomas Jefferson recognized more than 227 years ago when he wrote to John Jay, “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”

In the same letter, Jefferson wrote: “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”

Associated Press President Gary Pruitt updated the Jeffersonian premise when he explained that the Justice Department’s actions were not just “unconstitutional” but destructive to the public’s right to know, insofar as such monitoring of media makes sources less willing to talk to journalists and reduces the likelihood that citizens will learn what their government is up to.

“If they restrict that apparatus [of newsgathering about controversial government actions] the people of the United States will only know what the government wants them to know and that’s not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment,” explained the head of the country’s largest news service.

Pruitt’s right. No matter what action is taken, or not taken, journalists will continue to clog the corridors of the Capitol and crowd into White House press briefings. The question is whether those journalists will be present to challenge the status quo or as mere stenographers to power.

That’s a distinction that members of Congress who take seriously their oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States understand. Indeed, it is the distinction that James Madison, the essential player in the drafting of the core document and of the Bill of Rights, was getting at when he said, “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Justin Amash and Jared Polis are not going to agree on most issues. Neither are Mick Mulvaney and Zoe Lofgren.

But they can agree on the basic outlines of the American experiment and how it must operate.

This is as the founders of that experiment intended: a free press providing a free people with the information they need to be their own governors.

John Nichols is the author (with Robert w. McChesney) of the upcoming book Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America. Hailed by Publisher’s Weekly as “a fervent call to action for reformers,” it details how the collapse of journalism and the rise of big-money politics threatens to turn our democracy into a dollarocracy.

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Read more: ‘Our Liberty Cannot Be Guarded but by the Freedom of the Press’ | The Nation http://www.thenation.com/blog/174450/our-liberty-cannot-be-guarded-freedom-press#ixzz2WjdF5PEe
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Dutch government to compensate cannabis cafes over weed pass


THE HAGUE, Netherlands – A Dutch court on Wednesday ordered the government to compensate owners of cannabis-selling cafes who say they lost money because of measures aimed at stamping out drug tourism.

But in a setback for owners of so-called coffee shops, the Hague District Court ruling also said that other moves to prevent foreigners from buying soft drugs in the Netherlands were legitimate.

The court said that turning coffee shops in the southern Netherlands into private member-only clubs last year deterred not only foreigners but also Dutch customers, and ordered compensation for the cafe owners. The amount will be settled later.

The decision was the latest skirmish in a long-running legal battle between the government that wants officially tolerated coffee shops to sell cannabis only to locals, and owners of the cafes who insist they should be allowed to sell to anybody.

Cannabis is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but police turn a blind eye to possession of small amounts and it is sold openly in coffee shops. Large-scale growers are prosecuted.

Michael Veling, a spokesman for the Dutch Union of Cannabis Retailers, said the group was disappointed by the parts of the ruling that upheld anti-drug-tourism measures, and would appeal.

In a written reaction, the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice called the judgment “a powerful underpinning of the present policy” and said it saw grounds to appeal the ruling that said turning coffee shops into private clubs was too harsh and unnecessary.

Under a government policy change that came into force May 1 last year in southern provinces close to the Dutch borders with Germany and Belgium, only holders of a “weed pass” are allowed to buy cannabis. The measure took aim at problems caused by thousands of foreigners who pour across the borders each year to buy drugs.

The government scrapped the pass in November, but continued its policy of allowing coffee shops to sell drugs only to Dutch residents.

However, it said local authorities would be responsible for enforcing the measure. Amsterdam, whose scores of coffee shops are a major tourist draw, immediately said it would continue to allow tourists to buy weed in the cafes.

By Mike Corder, The Associated Press

via Dutch government to compensate cannabis cafes over weed pass.

Setting an example: Why we must defend Manning and Assange


WikiLeaks released an enormous treasure-trove of classified US government documents in 2010. It included US military logs from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 250,000 diplomatic cables, and Collateral Murder, a video depicting the killing of 12 civilians by a US helicopter gunship in Iraq.

The source of the leaks, US Private Bradley Manning, acted on his conscience. He believed that people have a right to see the information he had been privy to as an army intelligence analyst. He was prepared to risk his life and liberty to reveal that information.

Through his exposure to thousands of classified documents, Manning became aware of the disparity between his government’s rhetoric and its actions. In Iraq, he witnessed his superiors turning a blind eye to torture, and was appalled by the “seemingly delightful bloodlust” of the US aerial weapons team in the Collateral Murder video.

Manning said he hoped the leaked documents would “spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general”. His courage will likely cost him a lifetime in prison, while his government is seeking to subject WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange to a similar fate.

When an empire is built on lies, truth is the enemy. Western governments do not want to be held accountable for their secret corruption and war crimes. Transparency poses a great danger to them.

Ruling elites depend on a democratic facade to conceal the inequalities and injustices inherent in our stratified societies. Information published by WikiLeaks can help us understand how the power exercised by our governments, in our name, ends up serving the interests of a powerful few.

With that understanding, people can demand the political and economic change that is needed to form more just and democratic societies. Transparency promotes criminal justice when it reveals individual wrongdoing, but it also promotes social justice: the sort of justice that comes from a shift in the balance of power from the 1% to a better-informed 99%.

The powerful cannot tolerate this threat to power and privilege. The US government is determined to make an example of Manning and Assange. They must be vilified, marginalised and punished severely, so those inclined to follow their path can see what will become of them if they do.

Manning has been held in pre-trial detention for three years, with nine months of that time spent in solitary confinement in a windowless cell where he was often forced to be naked.

Last year, the UN special rapporteur on torture ruled that Manning’s conditions constituted “at a minimum cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”, and were a “violation of [Manning’s] right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence”.

For enduring this unlawful pre-trial punishment, Manning was granted a meagre 112 day reduction off his eventual sentence.

Manning’s trial by a military court begins on June 3. He has been prevented from defending himself on the grounds that he was acting for the public good, since a pre-trial judge ruled that he cannot submit evidence as to his motives for leaking information. He will likely be convicted of most of the 22 charges against him.

Assange and WikiLeaks have been the subject of a US criminal investigation since 2010. The investigation has been described in cables from the Australian embassy in Washington as “unprecedented in both its scale and nature”.

As of June last year, the FBI file on WikiLeaks was reported to comprise 42,135 pages, excluding grand jury testimony.

In September last year, a Pentagon spokesperson said that the very existence of WikiLeaks is regarded as an ongoing crime. This suggests the US government is not about to let up its pursuit of Assange any time soon. It is possible that a secret sealed grand jury indictment of Assange on charges of espionage or conspiracy already exists.

The US government and its allies seek to reassert their authority through the persecution of Manning and Assange, but their actions only serve to further undermine their legitimacy.

Reassuring notions of “human rights” and “civil liberties” appear to underpin our democracies, until we see how quickly they can be dispensed with to punish those who challenge the authority of the state.

US writer and activist Chris Hedges said in an interview with Democracy Now! that the attacks on Manning and Assange were part of a troubling pattern of increasing repression.

The Barack Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the 1917 Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined. It introduced the 2011 National Defence Authorisation Act, which allows for the indefinite military detention of anyone the government claims is offering “substantial support” to terrorists or “associated forces”.

The administration has refused to rule out the possibility that journalists could be subject to this provision.

It was revealed in May that the Obama administration had secretly appropriated the work, home and mobile phone records of 100 reporters and editors at the Associated Press (AP). The government has refused to explain why it carried out the raid, but it is believed to have been part of an investigation into the identity of the source of an AP story about a CIA operation in Yemen.

Hedges said these measures are “symptomatic of a reconfiguration of our society into a totalitarian security and surveillance state, one where anyone who challenges the official narrative, who digs out cases of torture, war crimes — which is, of course, what Manning and Assange presented to the American public — is going to be ruthlessly silenced”.

Australians should be no less concerned about these developments than citizens of the United States. Where the US government goes, the Australian government tends to follow, and the US is increasingly applying its laws extra-territorially.

The Australian government’s treatment of Assange demonstrates how quickly it will sacrifice the welfare of an Australian citizen, and violate its international obligations to protect journalists, in deference to a powerful ally.

Australia generally offers poor legal protections to journalists, who are increasingly finding themselves in court for refusing to reveal their sources.

In an extraordinary attack on personal privacy, the Australian government wants to force internet service providers to retain our personal data for two years, making it available to the police and the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

Laws proposed last year would also give ASIO the power to demand online passwords to access users’ personal data, and the power to remotely control computers and modify the content.

If we do not fight these measures, and if we fail to stand up for Manning and Assange, we will simply be inviting more of the same. We need to set an example to those in power: we will not stand by while they strip us of our rights and freedoms, and punish anyone who dares to challenge their authority.

Crucially, though, if we hope to build enduring just and democratic societies, we need to set an example to ourselves.

In a recent interview with US philosopher and activist Cornel West, Assange revealed that he understands very well that the limits we place on ourselves are as powerful as any external constraints.

Assange told West that in his early 20s, he was asked by the Australian police to inform on friends within the Australian activist community. Assange said that he refused, not because he was worried about what others would think of him, but because he did not want to “set a precedent to himself of succumbing”.

Assange said, “there is no other way to live, but to live your own life, and to try and manifest your principles in the world”.

We might think of ourselves as freedom, justice, and peace-loving people, but it’s our actions that shape our character. To act in accordance with our deepest values in the face of great personal cost, is empowering. As Assange put it, “to be courageous emancipates our own character”.

Each time we “succumb” to injustice and oppression, we are training ourselves to succumb when we find ourselves in similar circumstances. Our capacity for courage is diminished.

If we fail to stand up for what we believe in as individuals, we cannot expect others to, and we cannot expect to live in a society which reflects our values.

Assange told West: “We must all fight to set precedents to ourselves about how our character will act in certain circumstances …

“Perhaps, for every person, their primary task is to strengthen and emancipate their own character, because how can they emancipate other people?”

If we do not act to defend Assange and Manning, we will be succumbing to a system which locks up those who expose war crimes, and lets war criminals walk free.

If we do not attempt to fulfill the potential for change which Manning and WikiLeaks have offered us, we will be succumbing to a world of inequality, injustice and permanent war.

[Linda Pearson is an activist with Sydney Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition. Email sawcparade@gmail.com for details of the SSAWC’s June 1 action for Bradley Manning.]

via Setting an example: Why we must defend Manning and Assange | Green Left Weekly.

Watchdog Groups Decry Obama Limits on Whistle-Blowers


Open-government advocates said a proposed U.S. rule that could lead to more federal jobs being classified as sensitive may also make it easier to fire federal whistle-blowers.

The Government Accountability Project and the Project on Government Oversight said the draft rule, published in the Federal Register today, was premature as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit weighs whether employees in “sensitive” jobs have the same rights to appeal termination as other federal workers.

The proposed rule from the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of Personnel Management “dramatically expands the use of this label of sensitive to apply to a great number of jobs,” said Angela Canterbury, director of public policy for the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington-based watchdog group.

Workers who don’t have security clearances can now appeal their termination to the Merit Systems Protection Board, an independent federal agency whose chairman is picked by the president.

The Government Accountability Project said the rule could classify public-safety workers, border patrol agents, foreign service officials and other federal workers as holding sensitive positions.

If the court decides that workers in sensitive jobs don’t have the same ability to appeal termination, then it may make it easier for administrations to fire employees who leak information to the press or attempt to expose corruption and mismanagement, Canterbury said.

Fox, AP

“The current regulations are now 20 years old and provide only general guidance,” the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of Personnel Management said in a joint e-mail response to questions today. “The new regulations will clarify the requirements and procedures agencies should follow when designating national security positions, by providing more detail and concrete examples.”

A White House spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for a comment on the rule.

Earlier this month, U.S. lawmakers criticized the administration of President Barack Obama for subpoenaing phone records of Associated Press reporters after the news service published a story about a foiled terrorist plot that originated in Yemen. The Department of Justice also disclosed earlier this month that it subpoenaed the phone records and e-mails of a Fox News reporter in a leak investigation.

First Amendment groups have also condemned the administration’s indictments of five government workers for leaking information under a World War I-era spy law.

“There couldn’t be a more sweeping roll back on the rule of law for the federal labor force,” Tom Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project, said in an interview.

via Watchdog Groups Decry Obama Limits on Whistle-Blowers – Bloomberg.

Rise Up or Die


Joe Sacco and I spent two years reporting from the poorest pockets of the United States for our book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.” We went into our nation’s impoverished “sacrifice zones” — the first areas forced to kneel before the dictates of the marketplace — to show what happens when unfettered corporate capitalism and ceaseless economic expansion no longer have external impediments. We wanted to illustrate what unrestrained corporate exploitation does to families, communities and the natural world. We wanted to challenge the reigning ideology of globalization and laissez-faire capitalism to illustrate what life becomes when human beings and the ecosystem are ruthlessly turned into commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse. And we wanted to expose as impotent the formal liberal and governmental institutions that once made reform possible, institutions no longer equipped with enough authority to check the assault of corporate power.

What has taken place in these sacrifice zones — in post-industrial cities such as Camden, N.J., and Detroit, in coalfields of southern West Virginia where mining companies blast off mountaintops, in Indian reservations where the demented project of limitless economic expansion and exploitation worked some of its earliest evil, and in produce fields where laborers often endure conditions that replicate slavery — is now happening to much of the rest of the country. These sacrifice zones succumbed first. You and I are next.

Corporations write our legislation. They control our systems of information. They manage the political theater of electoral politics and impose our educational curriculum. They have turned the judiciary into one of their wholly owned subsidiaries. They have decimated labor unions and other independent mass organizations, as well as having bought off the Democratic Party, which once defended the rights of workers. With the evisceration of piecemeal and incremental reform–the primary role of liberal, democratic institutions–we are left defenseless against corporate power.

The Department of Justice seizure of two months of records of phone calls to and from editors and reporters at The Associated Press is the latest in a series of dramatic assaults against our civil liberties. The DOJ move is part of an effort to hunt down the government official or officials who leaked information to the AP about the foiling of a plot to blow up a passenger jet. Information concerning phones of Associated Press bureaus in New York, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Conn., as well as the home and mobile phones of editors and reporters, was secretly confiscated. This, along with measures such as the use of the Espionage Act against whistle-blowers, will put a deep freeze on all independent investigations into abuses of government and corporate power.

Seizing the AP phone logs is part of the corporate state’s broader efforts to silence all voices that defy the official narrative, the state’s Newspeak, and hide from public view the inner workings, lies and crimes of empire. The person or persons who provided the classified information to the AP will, if arrested, most likely be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. That law was never intended when it was instituted in 1917 to silence whistle-blowers. And from 1917 until Barack Obama took office in 2009 it was employed against whistle-blowers only three times, the first time against Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The Espionage Act has been used six times by the Obama administration against government whistle-blowers, including Thomas Drake.

The government’s fierce persecution of the press — an attack pressed by many of the governmental agencies that are arrayed against WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and activists such as Jeremy Hammond — dovetails with the government’s use of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force to carry out the assassination of U.S. citizens; of the FISA Amendments Act, which retroactively makes legal what under our Constitution was once illegal — the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of tens of millions of U.S. citizens; and of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which permits the government to have the military seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them in indefinite detention. These measures, taken together, mean there are almost no civil liberties left.

A handful of corporate oligarchs around the globe have everything — wealth, power and privilege — and the rest of us struggle as part of a vast underclass, increasingly impoverished and ruthlessly repressed. There is one set of laws and regulations for us; there is another set of laws and regulations for a power elite that functions as a global mafia.

We stand helpless before the corporate onslaught. There is no way to vote against corporate power. Citizens have no way to bring about the prosecution of Wall Street bankers and financiers for fraud, military and intelligence officials for torture and war crimes, or security and surveillance officers for human rights abuses. The Federal Reserve is reduced to printing money for banks and financiers and lending it to them at almost zero percent interest; corporate officers then lend it to us at usurious rates as high as 30 percent. I do not know what to call this system. It is certainly not capitalism. Extortion might be a better word. The fossil fuel industry, meanwhile, relentlessly trashes the ecosystem for profit. The melting of 40 percent of the summer Arctic sea ice is, to corporations, a business opportunity. Companies rush to the Arctic and extract the last vestiges of oil, natural gas, minerals and fish stocks, indifferent to the death pangs of the planet. The same corporate forces that give us endless soap operas that pass for news, from the latest court proceedings surrounding O.J. Simpson to the tawdry details of the Jodi Arias murder trial, also give us atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide that surpass 400 parts per million. They entrance us with their electronic hallucinations as we waiver, as paralyzed with fear as Odysseus’ sailors, between Scylla and Charybdis.

There is nothing in 5,000 years of economic history to justify the belief that human societies should structure their behavior around the demands of the marketplace. This is an absurd, utopian ideology. The airy promises of the market economy have, by now, all been exposed as lies. The ability of corporations to migrate overseas has decimated our manufacturing base. It has driven down wages, impoverishing our working class and ravaging our middle class. It has forced huge segments of the population — including those burdened by student loans — into decades of debt peonage. It has also opened the way to massive tax shelters that allow companies such as General Electric to pay no income tax. Corporations employ virtual slave labor in Bangladesh and China, making obscene profits. As corporations suck the last resources from communities and the natural world, they leave behind, as Joe Sacco and I saw in the sacrifice zones we wrote about, horrific human suffering and dead landscapes. The greater the destruction, the greater the apparatus crushes dissent.

More than 100 million Americans — one-third of the population — live in poverty or a category called “near poverty.” Yet the stories of the poor and the near poor, the hardships they endure, are rarely told by a media that is owned by a handful of corporations — Viacom, General Electric, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Clear Channel and Disney. The suffering of the underclass, like the crimes of the power elite, has been rendered invisible.

In the Lakota Indian reservation at Pine Ridge, S.D., in the United States’ second poorest county, the average life expectancy for a male is 48. This is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere outside of Haiti. About 60 percent of the Pine Ridge dwellings, many of which are sod huts, lack electricity, running water, adequate insulation or sewage systems. In the old coal camps of southern West Virginia, amid poisoned air, soil and water, cancer is an epidemic. There are few jobs. And the Appalachian Mountains, which provide the headwaters for much of the Eastern Seaboard, are dotted with enormous impoundment ponds filled with heavy metals and toxic sludge. In order to breathe, children go to school in southern West Virginia clutching inhalers. Residents trapped in the internal colonies of our blighted cities endure levels of poverty and violence, as well as mass incarceration, that leave them psychologically and emotionally shattered. And the nation’s agricultural workers, denied legal protection, are often forced to labor in conditions of unpaid bondage. This is the terrible algebra of corporate domination. This is where we are all headed. And in this accelerated race to the bottom we will end up as serfs or slaves.

Rebel. Even if you fail, even if we all fail, we will have asserted against the corporate forces of exploitation and death our ultimate dignity as human beings. We will have defended what is sacred. Rebellion means steadfast defiance. It means resisting just as have Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, just as has Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical journalist whom Cornel West, James Cone                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   and I visited in prison last week in Frackville, Pa. It means refusing to succumb to fear. It means refusing to surrender, even if you find yourself, like Manning and Abu-Jamal, caged like an animal. It means saying no. To remain safe, to remain “innocent” in the eyes of the law in this moment in history is to be complicit in a monstrous evil. In his poem of resistance, “If We Must Die,” Claude McKay knew that the odds were stacked against African-Americans who resisted white supremacy. But he also knew that resistance to tyranny saves our souls. McKay wrote:

If we must die, let it not be like hogs

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,

While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,

Making their mock at our accursèd lot.

If we must die, O let us nobly die

So that our precious blood may not be shed

In vain; then even the monsters we defy

Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!

O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!

Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,

And for their thousand blows deal one death blow!

What though before us lies the open grave?

Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,

Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

It is time to build radical mass movements that defy all formal centers of power and make concessions to none. It is time to employ the harsh language of open rebellion and class warfare. It is time to march to the beat of our own drum. The law historically has been a very imperfect tool for justice, as African-Americans know, but now it is exclusively the handmaiden of our corporate oppressors; now it is a mechanism of injustice. It was our corporate overlords who launched this war. Not us. Revolt will see us branded as criminals. Revolt will push us into the shadows. And yet, if we do not revolt we can no longer use the word “hope.”

Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” grasps the dark soul of global capitalism. We are all aboard the doomed ship Pequod, a name connected to an Indian tribe eradicated by genocide, and Ahab is in charge. “All my means are sane,” Ahab says, “my motive and my object mad.” We are sailing on a maniacal voyage of self-destruction, and no one in a position of authority, even if he or she sees what lies ahead, is willing or able to stop it. Those on the Pequod who had a conscience, including Starbuck, did not have the courage to defy Ahab. The ship and its crew were doomed by habit, cowardice and hubris. Melville’s warning must become ours. Rise up or die.

Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio

via OpEdNews – Article: Rise Up or Die.

via OpEdNews – Article: Rise Up or Die.

“Our Liberty Cannot Be Guarded but by the Freedom of the Press”


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Attorney General Eric Holder. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Democrats and Republicans working together in Washington to address abuses of basic liberties? Bipartisan responses to the challenges that arise in  the gray area where balances are struck between constitutional guarantees and national security demands? Impossible. Can’t happen. There is no way in these days of fury and scandal-mongering.

Actually, there is a way.

A genuine left-right coalition has developed over the past several days in response to the revelation that the Department of Justice seized Associated Press telephone records in its recent investigation of a CIA leak. And that coalition is likely to strengthen in light of the news that the DOJ investigated the reporting activities of Fox News’s chief Washington correspondent as a potential crime — “solicitation” of leaks. The latter development, in many senses more troubling than the former, calls into question whether basic protections for both reporters and whistleblowers are crumbling after more than a decade of Patriot Act abuses, Bush and Obama administration excesses and the politicization of debates about what were once accepted standards for protecting the public’s right to know and the privacy rights that underpin it.

In moments so rigorously partisan as these, many members of Congress will retreat to their corners, mounting attacks or making excuses. But there are some serious legislators, libertarian-leaning Republicans and progressive Democrats, who understand the urgency of the moment.

They get that the revelations about DOJ over-reach reveal a threat not just to freedom of the press but to the most necessary of press functions: the work of revealing for citizens the details of what their government is doing in their name but without their informed consent. None of these members are foolish or casual in their approach; they understand that it is necessary for the government to protect against the leaking of information that could endanger people. But they also understand that it is possible to provide that protection within a constitutional context.

Perhaps most importantly, they get that the best way to protect the First Amendment guarantee of a free press is to protect the Fourth Amendment guarantee of privacy. Journalists do not need — and should not seek — an array of special protections to do their jobs. But journalists and their sources do need to know that information can be shared without the threat of unwarranted — and self-serving — government surveillance of necessary conversations.

It is with this in mind that four very different members of Congress (Michigan Republican Justin Amash, South Carolina Republican Mick Mulvaney, California Democrat Zoe Lofgren and Colorado Democrat Jared Polis) have proposed a precise and appropriate response to the overreach by the Department of Justice. While the White House and key members of the Senate are backing a Shield Law, which protects journalists from being required to reveal sources, the House members are going deeper — to protect not just journalists but all citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” They seek a Telephone Records Protection Act, which requires court approval when the government demands telephone records from service providers.

“The Justice Department’s seizure of the AP’s phone records — likely without the sign-off of a single judge — raises serious First and Fourth Amendment concerns,” says Amash, who has emerged as a hero to libertarian-leaning conservatives. “Regardless of whether DOJ violates the legitimate privacy expectations of reporters or ordinary Americans, we deserve to know that the federal government can’t seize our records without judicial review.”

Polis, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says, “Americans of all political stripes were shocked to find out that the Department of Justice had been accessing telephone records of reporters at the Associated Press. The Department of Justice claims that they operated within the confines of the law, which makes it abundantly clear that we need to provide a higher level of protection against government intrusion into an individual’s private records.”

This is an essential equation for all Americans who value the right to privacy outlined in the Fourth Amendment. But it is especially essential when it comes to constructing a press system that serves the intention expressed by the founders: to inform citizens so that they can, with their votes, steer the affairs of state.

This is what Thomas Jefferson recognized more than 227 years ago when he wrote to John Jay, “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”

In the same letter, Jefferson wrote: “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”

Associated Press President Gary Pruitt updated the Jeffersonian premise when he explained that the Justice Department’s actions were not just “unconstitutional” but destructive to the public’s right to know, insofar as such monitoring of media makes sources less willing to talk to journalists and reduces the likelihood that citizens will learn what their government is up to.

“If they restrict that apparatus [of newsgathering about controversial government actions] the people of the United States will only know what the government wants them to know and that’s not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment,” explained the head of the country’s largest news service.

Pruitt’s right. No matter what action is taken, or not taken, journalists will continue to clog the corridors of the Capitol and crowd into White House press briefings. The question is whether those journalists will be present to challenge the status quo or as mere stenographers to power.

That’s a distinction that members of Congress who take seriously their oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States understand. Indeed, it is the distinction that James Madison, the essential player in the drafting of the core document and of the Bill of Rights, was getting at when he said, “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Justin Amash and Jared Polis are not going to agree on most issues. Neither are Mick Mulvaney and Zoe Lofgren.

But they can agree on the basic outlines of the American experiment and how it must operate.

This is as the founders of that experiment intended: a free press providing a free people with the information they need to be their own governors.

John Nichols is the author (with Robert w. McChesney) of the upcoming book Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America.  Hailed by  Publisher’s Weekly  as “a fervent call to action for reformers,” it details how the collapse of journalism and the rise of big-money politics threatens to turn our democracy into a dollarocracy.

via OpEdNews – Article: “Our Liberty Cannot Be Guarded but by the Freedom of the Press”.

The Obama administration has aggressively prosecuted leaks and whistleblowers. Who are they?


U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that theAP leak put U.S. lives at risk and demanded “very aggressive” method of investigation, reported the BBC.

Revelations this week of a secret Justice Department seizure of two months’ worth of phone records from The Associated Press are the latest flare up in tense relationship between the U.S. government and the media when it comes to whistleblowers.

The Obama administration’s legacy with access to information and whistleblowers has been contentious. While the administration claims it’s the “most transparent” in history, many critics accused the president of doublespeak on the issue, lauding whistleblowers with the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement act of November 2012 while aggressively prosecuting leaks at the same time.

According to a statement from the White House, the president’s office was not involved in the Justice Department’s request of the AP’s phone records, reported The Huffington Post.

According to The New York Times, the Obama administration has waged the most aggressive campaign against whistleblowers in U.S. history, responsible for six of the nine total indictments ever brought under the 1917 Espionage Act. See a brief timeline of the prosecutions assembled by the newspaper here, including the famous 1973 Pentagon Papers case.

Reporters Without Borders condemned the act as a “grave violation” of press freedom and argued that the Justice Department’s overstep signals the need for a federal shield law to protect journalists and their sources from government interference.

The Obama administration has six current and former government officials indicted on leak-related charges so far, reported The New York Times this morning. Here’s a list of them:

1. Shamai K. Leibowitz, 2009

Leibowitz, a former-FBI Hebrew translator, pleaded guilty to leaking classified information to Richard Silverstein who blogs at Tikun Olam, reported AlterNet. The translator passed 200 pages of transcribed conversations recorded by FBI wiretaps of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. Leibowitz was sentenced to up to 20 months in prison, according to The Washington Post.

2. Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, 2010

Kim was a nuclear proliferation expert working on a contract basis for the U.S. State Department when he was accused of leaking information about North Korea to Fox News.

The Justice Department claimed that Kim was the source behind Fox News journalist James Rosen’s 2009 report suggesting that the North would likely test another nuclear bomb in reaction to a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning its tests, reported AlterNet.

Kim pleaded not guilty to the charges. A Federal Grand Jury indicted him but the case has not gone to trial, according to The New York Times.

3. Thomas Drake, 2010

Drake worked as a senior executive at the National Security Agency when he was charged with “willful retention” of classified documents under the Espionage Act. He leaked information about government waste on digital data gathering technology to The Baltimore Sun, according to AlterNet.

At one point Drake faced up to 35 years in prison for several charges. Eventually, most of the charges were dropped and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for  “exceeding authorized use of a computer.” He was sentenced to one-year probation and community service.

4. Pfc. Bradley Manning, 2010

Probably the best known of the six under indictment, Manning was the source behind the WikiLeaks and CableGate information dumps. Critics accuse the government of dragging its feet and aggressively redacting requests for public information about the trial. One journalist opined that the Guantanamo military tribunals were more transparent.

Manning faces a court martial and a harsher sentence that could include life in prison without parole, reported The New York Times. AlterNet pointed out, however, that prosecutors would have to prove Manning released the documents with the intention of harming the U.S. to win those harsher charges, something Manning denies. His trial is set for next month, June 3.

5. Jeffery Sterling, 2010

Sterling, a former-CIA official, pleaded not guilty to leaking information to New York Times journalist James Risen regarding a failed U.S. attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. The information in question was published in Risen’s book “State of War.”

Risen successfully fought several subpoenas from the federal government to reveal his sources during Sterling’s trial, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The Justice Department announced in the summer of 2012 that it has “effectively terminated” the case, according to the Times.

6. John C. Kiriakou, 2012

One of the few prosecuted under the Espionage act to serve jail time, Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Jan. 25, 2013, for leaking classified information to the media. Kiriakou pleaded not guilty to releasing the name of an undercover CIA agent to a reporter and information about the intelligence agency’s use of waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique.

Kiriakou is the first person successfully prosecuted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in 27 years, according to the Times. The reporter the ex-CIA official spoke to did not publish the undercover agent’s name, although the Times pointed out that the agent’s identity appeared in a sealed legal filing and on an “obscure” website.

via The Obama administration has aggressively prosecuted leaks and whistleblowers. Who are they? | Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

SOME BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS FROM RUSSIA


SOME BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS FROM RUSSIA

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Brain Study Shows Link Between Fructose and Overeating


A new study adds evidence that fructose (and its relative, high fructose corn syrup) may play a role in obesity, according to the Associated Press. MRI scans showed that fructose can trigger brain changes that may lead to overeating.

The results add fire to the ongoing debate of whether or not all sugars are created equal.

From the AP:

Scans showed that drinking glucose “turns off or suppresses the activity of areas of the brain that are critical for reward and desire for food,” said one study leader, Yale University endocrinologist Dr. Robert Sherwin. With fructose, “we don’t see those changes,” he said. “As a result, the desire to eat continues — it isn’t turned off.”

This isn’t the only study that makes fructose a bad actor compared to glucose. GAP client and whistleblower Renee Dufault gave a presentation a couple weeks ago at our office in Washington D.C. on the impact of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and human metabolism.

“The more fructose we eat, the faster we gain weight,” Dufault stated. She explained that people can become obese eating too much cane sugar as well as eating too much high fructose corn syrup, but that it will happen faster via HFCS consumption because it has more fructose. Check back on the FIC blog for video of her presentation!

via Brain Study Shows Link Between Fructose and Overeating – Food Integrity Campaign.

via Brain Study Shows Link Between Fructose and Overeating – Food Integrity Campaign.

Byenedictus XVI


Byenedictus XVI

Time to say to Papa Benedict XVI Au revoir, Cheerio and good riddiance

via Byenedictus XVI – Truthdig.

via Byenedictus XVI – Truthdig.

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