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The Surveillance State Strikes Back


When former National Security Agency contractor Ed Snowden exposed the inner workings of the country’s biggest intelligence organization, he said he did so to roll back a spying apparatus that put the United States on the path to “turnkey tyranny.”

But his revelations could end up having the opposite effect. Instead of declawing a single surveillance state, Snowden’s leaks could ironically wind up enhancing government spying around the globe.

According to experts who are advising U.S. email, cloud data storage, and social media companies, executives are concerned that foreign governments — particularly ones with fewer protections for personal privacy and free speech — are already beginning to demand that U.S. tech companies relocate their servers and databases within their borders. Under normal circumstances, companies would rarely comply with those migration demands, especially if those countries have reputations for heavy-handed internal policing. But now that the United States is being seen as a global spying power, they may have little choice.

Other governments can make their relocation demands in the name of protecting citizens from the intrusive powers of the NSA. Then those regimes can use U.S. tech to make their own law enforcement and intelligence agencies more NSA-like.

“Despite Snowden’s sensational revelations, data will not be better protected outside the U.S. in countries where privacy is aspirational at best,” said Al Gidari, a lawyer with the firm Perkins Coie who represents companies on surveillance and communications law. “Data stored locally will be the fuel for corruption, abuse and repression in most of those countries, especially in those countries that are complaining the loudest about U.S. surveillance activities.”

This week, Brazil’s communications minister said that Internet service providers may now be required to store information locally following reports that NSA has spied on communications in Brazil and across Latin America.

“The ideal thing would be for these companies to keep their data in the country so it can be available should Brazil’s justice system request it,” Paulo Bernardo Silva said in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper. Silva described local control of data as a matter of national sovereignty.

Companies that provide cloud computing services are facing particular scrutiny abroad. Their business is to store large amounts of sensitive information about foreign individuals and companies on servers that are located in United States. And there is a growing perception that this infrastructure is firmly within the grip of the U.S. intelligence agencies, several experts said. That impression is not diminished when U.S. officials, attempting to mollify domestic critics, argue that the NSA is only interested in monitoring foreigners.

Over the past few years, overseas governments have increased pressure on marquee technology companies to hand over more data about their customers and to comply with official orders that would be deemed unconstitutional in the United States.

In 2011, Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, gave the government of India access to its consumer and messaging services, in response to authorities’ concerns that they would not be able to monitor criminals and other threats communicating over the company’s networks. Officials had threatened to cut off access to the company’s services inside their country if RIM didn’t comply. The company ultimately agreed to allow India’s security agencies to intercept emails and other messages.

Last year, the Google executive in charge of the company’s business operations in Brazil was arrested after the company failed to comply with a government order to remove YouTube videos critical of a local mayoral candidate. Google, which owns YouTube, said it wasn’t responsible for the content that users post to the video sharing network.

It wasn’t the first time the company had run up against aggressive policing of information that would be protected under the First Amendment in the United States. In 2011, Google removed profiles from its Orkut social-networking system after a court order deemed them politically offensive. And another order told the company to take down thousands of photos from one of its sharing sites.

U.S. companies are required to abide by the surveillance laws in whatever country they operate. But under legal assistance treaties, foreign governments usually funnel their requests through official channels, and U.S. authorities deliver the requests to the American companies. That slows down the surveillance machine in those countries, and they’ve been looking for ways to speed up that process.

Brazil may prove an early test case for the Snowden blowback effect. According to a report in the Brazilian newspaper Folha, the government will present a “formal condemnation of U.S. data collection techniques” to the United Nations Human Rights Council at its next meeting on September 9, in Geneva. Brazil has apparently had little luck attracting supporters to its attempt to politically embarrass the U.S. government — only seven other countries on the 47-member commission have signed on.

But new information about NSA spying, disclosed by the director of the agency himself, may add some momentum to Brazil’s efforts. At the Aspen Security Conference, Gen. Keith Alexander tipped his hand and revealed that the NSA is obtaining a huge amount of communications traffic from cables that come ashore in Brazil.

Brazil is in the espionage business, too, of course, as are most countries. But the NSA revelations have tended to obscure the obvious hypocrisy in one nation feigning outrage that another country is spying on it. In an interview with Folha, Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim acknowledged that his fellow countrymen could be spied on via their connections to foreign social networks. (The implication was those in the United States.) But he said there was no evidence that the Brazilian government was using such a scheme to monitor its own citizens.

“What is known is more about the U.S. agencies,” Celso said. “To my knowledge, nothing has come out about the Brazilian agencies. But Brazilians can be [monitored], yes. It is speculation.”

Celso added that on two occasions, he believed his communications had been monitored by the United States, including while he lived in the country as Brazil’s ambassador to the United Nations. “I was responsible for three committees on the issue of Iraq. My phone started making a very strange noise, and when the commission on Iraq ended, the noise did too. There was an obvious focus then.”

U.S. technology companies’ reputations are also taking hits in Europe. Vivane Reding, the European Union’s Justice Minister, is reviewing the Safe Harbor Framework, which is intended to support transatlantic trade while also protecting European citizens’ privacy. Redding has said the agreement could be used as a “loophole” to allow the transfer of personal data to the United States from European countries where privacy rules are stronger.

Companies based in Europe also believe that the NSA scandal could be a financial boon for them. Customers may start moving their data to facilities located in countries with stricter privacy regulations — and away from American-based firms. “There’s a perception, even if unfounded, that U.S. privacy protections are insufficient to protect the data which is stored either on U.S. soil or with U.S. companies,” Justin Freeman, the corporate counsel for cloud computing provider Rackspace, told a House committee last year.

Snowden’s revelations have cracked whatever veneer of deniability U.S. companies had that they weren’t providing foreigners’ personal data to American intelligence agencies. And considering that Congress this week put its stamp of approval on a key element of the NSA’s surveillance architecture, companies may find it harder to persuade their foreign customers that the U.S. is still a safe place to keep their information.

But there may be a way, however unlikely, for U.S. companies to repair their international standing and keep their customers’ information away from the NSA: They could move their own infrastructure overseas or become acquired by majority foreign owners.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the wireless division of Verizon and T-Mobile have not been part of the spy agency’s data collection regime because they’re tied to foreign owners. Deutsche Telekom, of Germany, owns 74 percent of T-Mobile, and Vodafone Group, of the United Kingdom, owns 45 percent of Verizon Wireless in a joint-venture with its parent company.

Germany and England may seem a long way to go to relocate a business. But it could keep companies further from the long arm of the NSA.

via The Surveillance State Strikes Back – By Shane Harris | Foreign Policy.

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Digital Carjackers Show Forbes How To Crash Cars, Fuel Michael Hastings Conspiracy Theories [Video]


Digital carjackers met with Forbes reporter Andy Greenberg to demonstrate how they can program a Ford Escape’s computer systems and crash it pretty much by pushing a button. On Wednesday, Forbes posted the video to YouTube, and you’re probably going to want to watch it, so press that button.

Warning: For some reason Andy Greenberg thinks we want to know that he flew out to meet these dudes on an an airplane. I’ve seen enough airports in my life. If you have too, I advise you to skip ahead to about the 0.58 mark where we actually meet digital carjackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek.

The trio plus an unseen camera person test the 3,500 pound Ford Escape in the weedy parking lot of a South Bend, Indiana strip mall.

With Greenberg at the wheel, the digital carjackers mess with the reporter’s mind by making his dashboard show more gas in the car than he actually has or by making his speedometer read 199 miles per hour.

The scariest stunt involves making the brakes fail with a melodramatic bellow — fortunately at 5 miles per hour so that nobody is hurt.

There’s much, much more in Greenberg’s article available online as well in the August 12 issue of Forbes.

The takeaway seems to be that bad guys can mess with your car computer just like they can with any other computer. And I don’t see why not.

However, what Greenberg, Miller, and Valasek may — or may not — know is that they have just fueled the flames of a thousand burning candles of conspiracy.

I got this story from someone who was looking into the death of Michael Hastings, the BuzzFeed reporter killed in a high speed car crash on June 18 in Los Angeles.

From what I’ve seen of Los Angeles, that kind of death isn’t too unusual.

But some people have speculated that he was killed because of his opposition to what he called the surveillance state.

I have no reason to believe that’s true. Andy Greenberg doesn’t mention Michael Hastings in the video or the online copy of his article.

But YouTube viewers of the videos are not so circumspect. Comment after comment reads: “RIP Michael Hastings” or “Hum… so is this what they did to Hastings when he was assassinated by the government goons?”

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/868158/digital-carjackers-video/#m3JMJMRA8KA2EVAy.99

via Digital Carjackers Show Forbes How To Crash Cars, Fuel Michael Hastings Conspiracy Theories [Video].

 

Wiretapping Saves


Wiretapping Saves Who will set off the NSA‘s alarm bells, thanks to data-mining programs that gather everyone’s information? It’s time to support programs that catch terrorists like, like . . . via Wiretapping Saves – YouTube.

New revelations in Shell Corrib Gas Corruption Scandal


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Now Superintendent Thomas Murphy has approached OSSL saying that he is going to investigate. He has presented himself “as an independent person to the ongoing issues in Co Mayo” with clean hands. I can only guess that he did not receive a share of the free booze received from Shell by hundreds of his fellow County Mayo Garda police officers. With all due respect to Superintendent Murphy, he can hardly be described as “independent”. However, if Superintendent Murphy decides to press ahead, the first person he should approach is Detective Chief Superintendent John Gilligan. He should ask Gilligan if he personally helped unload a delivery of alcohol at Bellmullet Garda station. (He did) If Gilligan declines to answer without first seeking advice from his lawyer, that alone would speak volumes. Superintendent Murphy may also wish to ask Gilligan and the other Garda who offloaded the free booze, who paid for it, who delivered it and who ended up drinking it?

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By John Donovan

We have already published several articles about Shell’s corruption of the Irish Police Force, the Garda.

Shell has spent almost €100,000 at legitimate retail value on supplying free alcohol (brought across the border) to quell the thirst of hundreds of Garda officers involved in supposedly policing the controversial Corrib Gas Project on an impartial basis. Complaints have been made over the  past several years by environmental campaigners and members of the local population all alleging that the police are working for Shell.

The Garda is currently the subject of public ridicule on YouTubeover the Shell alcohol corruption scandal.

Shell used a small local company, OSSL, as a “Mr Fixit” to ease the progress of the much hated pipeline by spreading gifts around where deemed necessary, for example on land owners. 

To hide what was going on, invoices were falsified and OSSL had to hand over to Shell receipts for goods purchased for distribution to the lucky recipients, such as the free booze showered on County Mayo police.

Now more revelations:

  • OSSL allege that Terry Nolan, when Chief Executive of Shell EP Ireland, demanded that Neil Rooney of OSSL should give a false statement to a Garda Ombudsman inquiry into a violent incident that took place at Pollathomais in County Mayo involving Garda Superintendent Joe Gannon, allegedly described by Nolan as being “Shell’s man”.
  • During the Royal Dutch Shell Plc AGM held in May, Peter Voser, the Chief Executive of the oil giant publicly agreed to intervene with a view to resolving outstanding issues with OSSL. So Voser is now personally involved.
  • The Garda has appointed Superintendent Thomas Murphy from the Swinford district of County Mayo to investigate the allegations made by OSSL.
  • OSSL claim that in 2003 they engaged in a covert operation on behalf of Shell EP Ireland and discovered that the objective of the cover of darkness activity was to fool planning officials and avoid a potential delay of up to a year and considerable embarrassment for Shell. From what I have seen, the mission seems to have been executed like a comedy caper, but the intent was serious and apparently successful.
  • OSSL owner Desmond Kane is so appalled by the continuing treacherous treatment his small company has received from Shell, including the failure of the Peter Voser intervention, that there are fears for his health. 

“FACE OFF IN POLLATHOMAIS”

This was a particularly violent face off in Pollathomais between lawful protestors on the one side and Shell and its agents, including the Garda led by Superintendent Joe Gannon on the other. As can be seen in a YouTube video, a digger machine used by Shell became the focus of the  fracas. It was in regard to this ugly confrontation that Shell EP Ireland CEO Terry Nolan demanded that Neil Rooney, who witnessed events, must falsify his evidence given to the investigation carried out by the Garda Ombudsman. Nolan informed Rooney that his statement had to be changed because the policeman involved in the incident was going to be hung out to dry and he was, as Nolan allegedly put it“our man” and “had to protected at all costs”.

After Rooney consulted with his OSSL colleague, Desmond Kane, over the demand to submit a new statement, he understandably declined to do so.  Shell’s whole attitude to OSSL then changed dramatically for the worse. Neil Rooney says: “there is no doubt in my mind that that refusal to lie ‘on demand’ for the Shell CEO cost us our positions and livelihood and we are still paying a massive price.”

INTERVENTION BY PETER VOSER

I supplied OSSL with admittance cards to the May 2013 Royal Dutch Shell Plc AGM with a recommendation that they should raise their dispute with Shell EP Ireland directly with Peter Voser in the Q & A Session. This was after Mr Voser had chosen for several months to ignore emails from OSSL. Now he was publicly cornered into speaking on this potentially explosive subject and quickly agreed to a meeting with a view to resolution. He accepted a condition set by OSSL. Iain Middleton, Royal Dutch Shell Contracting and Procurement Leader for Europe subsequently confirmed in an email to OSSL that he had been asked by Peter Voser to meet with Desmond Kane and Neil Rooney of OSSL in Dublin. OSSL had insisted on someone representing Shell who had not been involved with Shell EP Ireland. The meeting came to nought because Shell wrongly calculated that it could still keep a lid on the scandal.

GARDA/SHELL INVESTIGATION OF THE ALLEGATIONS

The Garda says it has already carried out an internal investigation of OSSL allegations and found no evidence to support them. In other words the Garda investigated the Garda and the Garda conveniently cleared the Garda.

Shell has used precisely the same clever formula.

Shell says that it carried out an internal investigation and found no evidence to support the allegations. Shell investigated Shell and Shell conveniently cleared Shell.

This whitewashing process allows a scandal to be covered up. The end result is a sanitizing statement carefully and deliberately designed to deceive.

Both the Garda and Shell know that in fact the allegations are true.

Now Superintendent Thomas Murphy has approached OSSL saying that he is going to investigate. He has presented himself “as an independent person to the ongoing issues in Co Mayo” with clean hands. I can only guess that he did not receive a share of the free booze received from Shell by hundreds of his fellow County Mayo Garda police officers. With all due respect to Superintendent Murphy, he can hardly be described as “independent”. 

However, if Superintendent Murphy decides to press ahead, the first person he should approach is Detective Chief Superintendent John Gilligan. He should ask Gilligan if he personally helped unload a delivery of alcohol at Bellmullet Garda station. (He did) If Gilligan declines to answer without first seeking advice from his lawyer, that alone would speak volumes. Superintendent Murphy may also wish to ask Gilligan and the other Garda who offloaded the free booze, who paid for it, who delivered it and who ended up drinking it?

There is a volume of correspondence between OSSL and Shell when the alcohol issue is discussed and no denial is made by Shell. A classic example is an email exchange that took place on 22 May 2012 between OSSL and the current CEO of Shell EP Ireland, Mr Michael Crothers. OSSL detailed a threat it had allegedly received from a party acting for Shell in relation to the supply of large amounts of alcohol to the Irish Police Force and related falsification of invoices. 22 minutes later OSSL received a reply from Mr Crothers. He did not take issue with or make any denial in respect of the statements about the threat to OSSL, the large amounts of alcohol showered on the Irish Police, nor on the related disguised invoices. Instead he dealt with another matter raised.

It is notable that in a letter dated May 28, 2013 Mr Crothers sent to a member of the Irish Parliament, Ms Clare Daly, Crothers claimed that Shell had arrived at a “full and final settlement” with OSSL in 2012. Clare Daly had written to Mr Crothers on my behalf. If a full and final settlement had been agreed, why did Peter Voser intervene? Why did the recent meeting between OSSL and Iain Middleton take place if all had already been resolved? Mr Crothers mentions in the same letter an invoice raised by OSSL for the alcohol requesting payment from Shell. If the invoice is fraudulent, why has this crime – an attempt to extort money from Shell on false pretenses – not been reported to the Garda?

In his letter Mr Crothers made plain his disdain for the tactics adopted by OSSL perhaps not expecting that OSSL would ever get to see what he had said about them:

Since last August OSSL has sent hundreds of emails, conducted public demonstrations, made statements on Facebook and has engaged with media in relation to its allegations. Emails demanding money have been directed to SEPIL staff and Royal Dutch Shell leaders. Emails have also been sent by OSSL to numerous journalists, with many senior Shell staff blind-copied on these mails. Local residents have also received emails.

Bearing in mind his repeated protestation in the letter that the OSSL allegations had been investigated and no evidence found to support them, Clare Daly was entitled to conclude that OSSL was engaged in a nasty campaign blackening the name of Shell for no good reason.

Why then did Shell decide at the very highest level to subsequently meet with OSSL again when OSSL had no grounds to pursue Shell, were making false accusations against Shell and doing so in an invidious way?

CONCERN FOR THE HEALTH OF DESMOND KANE

Mr Neil Rooney says that his OSSL colleague, Desmond Kane, has a longstanding heart condition and that the sheer frustration and trauma of being stone-walled and threatened by Shell and its agents is having a bad affect on his health. Information about his current condition has been conveyed to Shell which does not seem interested in the slightest.

Shell and its agents have warned Mr Kane and Mr Rooney of the prospect of imprisonment for their involvement in potential criminal activity in carrying out Shell’s instructions.  The fact that both individuals have continued to reveal the truth is out of disgust and outrage at the way Shell pressured them into such activity in the first place and then ditched the company after they refused to give false testimony to the Garda Ombudsman investigation.

I have been in direct contact with Alan Shatter, the Irish Minister for Justice.

Given the gravity of these matters what is needed is a genuinely independent inquiry. Not another internal investigation of the Garda by the Garda.

SOME OF THE RECENT CORRESPONDENCE IS SHOWN BELOW.

CLICK TO ENLARGE ON EACH IMAGE.

EMAIL FROM MICHAEL CROTHERS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF SHELL EP IRELAND TO TD DEPUTY, CLARE DALY

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EMAIL FROM IAIN MIDDLETON OF SHELL TO DESMOND KANE OF OSSL

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EMAIL TO OSSL FROM SUPERINTENDENT THOMAS MURPHY OF THE GARDA

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VIA

Did You Know About Monsanto Video Revolt On July 24, 2013?


Monsanto
monsantovideorevolt.com

The fight against Monsanto Company, the leading producer of Genetically Engineered Seeds in the world, continues as another major ‘video’ protest has been planned for July 24, 2013.

On May 27 this year, almost two million people in 436 cities across the world marched against what they believe is ‘corporate greed’ and an attack on human health. Increasing information about the adverse effects of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) has left people appalled and outraged, however, it has had no effect on the growth and profits of the companies that are manufacturing these products.

In order to remind the world of this indifference and insensitivity of corporations towards the health and well being of innocent people, a video revolt has been organized. According tomonsantovideorevolt.com, ‘In an effort to generate even more awareness across the globe, the largest players in the natural health field are coming together to push this Monsanto Video Revolt into hyper space. Together, they are joining forces and asking YOU to help even further on July 24th, 2013, in the Monsanto Video Revolt.’

The website has also described the three basic steps involved for people who wish to join the revolt:

Step 1 – Create a video of any length detailing why you stand against Monsanto and GMOs at large. The video can be as long as you want – it’s your choice.

Step 2 – Upload your video to major video websites like YouTube, Vimeo, LiveLeak, DailyMotion, NaturalNews.TV (where it will not be censored), etc.).

Step 3 – Spread the word about Monsanto and be the final stake in their vampire heart. Share your video any way possible, through Facebook, Twitter, or any other platform you can think of.

Following are two videos that have been posted as part of the protest:

And this is an animated video explaining GMO and its effects on health in a very interesting way. Have a look:

Do you have a video planned for the protest? Do share it with us.

What Lies Beneath the Robes -The Rape of Kalu Rinpoche- Buddhist Scandals


The Rape of Kalu Rinpoche

Kalu Rinpoche

In October 2011, a famous and highly-respected reincarnate Tibetan Buddhist master, Kalu Rinpoche, posted a Youtube video in which he reveals the abuse he suffered as a young monk at the hands of adult monks in his monastery. Rinpoche’s allegations caused shockwaves within the Tibetan Buddhist community (particularly his western students). Since that time, I have not heard any Tibetan Buddhist teacher (especially those connected with Kalu Rinpoche) publicly respond to his allegations, let alone suggest there be a formal investigation and those responsible brought to account. One can only hope Kalu Rinpoche’s video exposure of this serious issue has not gone to waste and been brushed under the carpet in the hope that people might forget about it. Rinpoche recently gave an interview in which he details the rape he suffered:

Kalu says that when he was in his early teens, he was sexually abused by a gang of older monks who would visit his room each week. When I bring up the concept of “inappropriate touching,” he laughs edgily. This was hard-core sex, he says, including penetration. “Most of the time, they just came alone,” he says. “They just banged the door harder, and I had to open. I knew what was going to happen, and after that you become more used to it.” It wasn’t until Kalu returned to the monastery after his three-year retreat that he realized how wrong this practice was. By then the cycle had begun again on a younger generation of victims, he says. Kalu’s claims of sexual abuse mirror those of Lodoe Senge, an ex-monk and 23-year-old tulku who now lives in Queens, New York. “When I saw the video,” Senge says of Kalu’s confessions, “I thought, ‘Shit, this guy has the balls to talk about it when I didn’t even have the courage to tell my girlfriend.’” Senge was abused, he says, as a 5-year-old by his own tutor, a man in his late twenties, at a monastery in India.

If that weren’t bad enough, Kalu Rinpoche’s former incarnation was himself accused of sexually exploiting June Campbell, his former female student and translator. Her story is just one in a number of cases of sexually predatory and exploitative conduct by male Tibetan Buddhist teachers towards their (mainly western) female students (see Mary Finnigan’s recent article “The Lamas who give Tibetan Buddhism a bad name”).

Putting aside the issue of sexual misconduct and abuse, much has also been said and written about on the everyday specter of violence as corporal punishment within Tibetan monasteries. Stories of excessive corporal punishment and violence in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are commonplace.

One Tibetan man I know very well (who was a monk for 15 years from the age of 12) told me that physical beating of young monks was the norm in his monastery. He related a story to me of how as a young adolescent he was held down on a bed by four adult monks and beaten with a heavy stick for the minor infraction of being late to morning puja. I can also personally verify that there was a violent incident at a respected Kagyu monastery in Nepal a few years ago, where a young monk used a meat cleaver to attack another young monk about the head and body, almost killing him in the process.

How was it dealt with by the monastery? Instead of handing him over to the police on an attempted murder charge, the monk was kicked out of the monastery and no more was said about it. Such conduct would have resulted in a criminal investigation in the UK.

via What Lies Beneath the Robes: Are Buddhist Monasteries Suitable Places for Children? ~ Adele Wilde-Blavatsky | elephant journal.

In Thailand: Where monks and money mix- Buddhist Scandals


hymonk111e

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.

Buddhist monks arrested over Thai child sex abuse claims


Interesting article which proves Christianity does not have a monopoly on abuse. However ,this is nothing new in Buddhism as the monasteries of  old Tibet were well known for child abuse

Buddhist monks arrested over Thai child sex abuse claims

Two Buddhist monks who allegedly organised acts of child sexual abuse have been arrested by Thai police, the latest controversy to hit a clergy struggling with challenges to its clean-living image.

Police in Chang Mai, in northern Thailand, said they had detained two monks for procuring a 14-year-old boy to perform sexual acts with an abbot. The alleged perpetrator was to be arrested as soon as a warrant was obtained, they said.

The pair, who deny any knowledge of the alleged abuse, could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, Police Colonel Wirachon Bunthawi told AFP from the northern city of Chiang Mai.

The police said the arrests were made on the basis of accounts from a driver and the victim himself, who claimed the two monks had taken him to see the abbot at the temple in Chiang Dao district several times since February.

“The abbot is still at the temple and we’re waiting for an arrest warrant for him,” Col. Wirachon said.

Related Articles

Buddhist monks rapped over private jet 17 Jun 2013

Tibetan monks to play Glastonbury 12 Jun 2013

Burma ethnic tensions rise after mosque and orphanage torched 29 May 2013

Dalai Lama doubts effect of Tibetan self-immolations 13 Jun 2013

The arrests of the two monks – aged 20 and 23 – comes as the Thai Buddhist clergy grapples with scandals that have damaged its reputation of morality and austerity.

Earlier this week, footage emerged on YouTube of three monks living an apparently ostentatious lifestyle, flying in a private jet, wearing earphones and sunglasses and carrying a Louis Vuitton bag.

The video, which quickly went viral, prompted debate in the Thai Kingdom over monks’ compliance with Buddhism’s strict lifestyle code. Monks are required to live as ascetics, shun worldly possessions aside from a few robes and receive their sole sustenance from local residents, rules that are increasingly challenging in the modern world.

The clergy in Thailand has recently been scandalised by a series of cases reported in local media, involving drug-taking, drinking, gambling and the use of prostitutes by monks.

via Buddhist monks arrested over Thai child sex abuse claims – Telegraph.

Whistleblowing – Is the national security state trumping the rule of law?


Is the national security state trumping the rule of law? Does each society need people like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden? Is going to the media the only way to expose government lies? And is the national security state sustainable? CrossTalking with Charles Wolf, Elizabeth Goitein and Michael Kohn.

via CrossTalk: Whistleblowing 2.0 – YouTube.

Proletarian Review of Information in Social Media – PRISM


23010-Surveillance_PRISM

Dear Comrades,

The Federal Bureau of Investigation of the Department of Social Justice, in cooperation with the National Security Agency, is proud to announce its new program, the Proletarian Review of Information in Social Media (PRISM).

Developed by the State in its efforts to centralize the management of citizen data and collectivize all individual information into an easy-to-access and record format, PRISM now downloads and sorts all citizen electronic communication from a variety of sources, including (but not limited to) Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple iCloud.

On behalf of the workers and peasants of the USSA, PRISM collects data on potential counter-revolutionary activities while the reactionaries are still typing! This information can then be used by State security officials to not only identify potential saboteurs and terrorists, but also identify their nefarious plans and prevent them from undermining the safety and security of USSA citizens.

As we all know, suspicion of non-conformism and potential unauthorized activity is sufficient grounds for the searching of electronic devices in our Socialist Democracy.

However, PRISM allows the State to move beyond such primitive concepts as ‘probable cause’ or ‘hunches,’ and removes all doubt about what each citizen is thinking and doing.

Comrades, imagine what good the State can do for the Masses with such intimate and detailed information! Let us ponder how our social services can be better tailored to suit the needs of each citizen, so that social programs will fit each person like a hand in a glove!

PRISM is an efficient means of data collection, developed by the diligent work of Socialist labor. Under the visionary leadership of Comrade Party Chairman and Future President Barack Barackovich Obama, the loyal Party members in the State’s internet industries have produced for us not only wonderful gifts such as Facebook and the iPhone, but also the means by which everything we share with our friends through these platforms is also shared with our Motherland.

PRISM helps us share with the Motherland! Agitate for universal data sharing, and open your heart to the world!

Faithfully submitted to the Collective of the People’s Cube,

Comrade Nomenklatura-climber

Dialectical Progressivism Translator

via Proletarian Review of Information in Social Media – PRISM.

Anti-Muslim Monks Tarnish Buddhism Image


Images of rampaging Buddhists carrying swords against Muslim villages and inflammatory sermons of monks are reflecting a rising trend of extremist Buddhism in Burma.

“You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog,” Ashin Wirathu, a Buddhist monk notorious for his rants against Muslims, said in a sermon in reference to Muslims, The New York Times reported on Friday, June 21.

“I call them troublemakers, because they are troublemakers,” the Buddhist monk said.

I am proud to be called a radical Buddhist.”

Buddhism was often defined by the gentle image and words of exiled spiritual leader of the Tibet the Dalai Lama.

But the image totally changed over rising attacks by radical Buddhists against Muslims in Burma as well as Sri Lanka.

Burma’s Mushrooming Buddhist Extremism

 Burmese Monks are blamed for inciting hatred against Muslims

In Burma, Buddhist monks have championed a campaign against what they call “the enemy”, in reference to Muslims.

They have given sermons and firing speeches against Burmese Muslims, which resulted in several bouts of violence against the sizable minority.

More than 200 people were killed and thousands of Muslims were displaced from their homes after attacks against Muslims in western Burma last year.

More than 42 people were also killed in a new bout of violence against Muslims in central Burma in April.

Monks were blamed for inciting hatred against Muslims by preaching a so-called “969 movement” which represents a radical form of anti-Islamic nationalism that urges Buddhists to boycott Muslim-run shops and services.

Wirathu, who takes pride as a Buddhist Bin Laden, has thousands of followers on Facebook and his YouTube videos have been watched tens of thousands of times.

He also leads the extremist nationalist “969” campaign, encouraging Buddhists to “buy Buddhist and shop Buddhist”, seemingly with the intention of creating an apartheid state.

Its message is spreading through regular sermons across the country that draw thousands of people and through widely distributed DVDs of those talks.

Buddhist monasteries associated with the movement are also opening community centers and a Sunday school program for 60,000 Buddhist children nationwide.

Stickers with the movement’s logo are now ubiquitous nationwide on cars, motorcycles and shops.

The movement has also begun a signature campaign calling for a ban on interfaith marriages, and pamphlets are distributed at sermons listing Muslim brands and shops to be avoided.

Wirathu describes the massacre of Muslim schoolchildren in the central city of Meiktila in April in recent sermon as a show of strength.

“If we are weak,” he said, “our land will become Muslim.”

Frightened Muslims

The new extremist notion of Buddhism in Burma is being criticized by rare voices from monks in neighboring countries.

Myanmar (Burma) monks are quite isolated and have a thin relationship with Buddhists in other parts of the world,” Phra Paisal Visalo, a Buddhist scholar and prominent monk in neighboring Thailand, said.

Visalo believes that the notion of “us and them” promoted by Burma’s radical monks is anathema to Buddhism.

He also lamented that his criticism and that of other leading Buddhists outside the country have had “very little impact.”

Among the most disappointed with the outbreaks of violence and hateful rhetoric are some of the leaders of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a peaceful uprising led by Buddhist monks against the military rule.

“We were not expecting this violence when we chanted for peace and reconciliation in 2007,” said Ashin Nyana Nika, 55, the abbot of Pauk Jadi monastery who attended a meeting earlier this month sponsored by Muslim groups to discuss the issue.

Facing parades of extremist monks, Taunggyi Muslims were terrified by a visit by Wirathu and other 60 honking motorcycles.

“I’m really frightened,” he said, stopping in midsentence when customers entered his shop.

“We tell the children not to go outside unless absolutely necessary.”

Rights groups have accused the Burmese police of turning a blind eye to attacks against Muslims.

The anti-Muslim violence has raised doubts on the success of Burma’s transition from 49 years of oppressive military rule that ended in March 2011.

Burma’s Muslims — largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent — account for an estimated four percent of the roughly 60 million population.

Muslims entered Burma en masse for the first time as indentured laborers from the Indian subcontinent during British colonial rule, which ended in 1948.

But despite their long history, they have never fully been integrated into the country, widely considered as foreigners.

via Anti-Muslim Monks Tarnish Buddhism Image – Asia-Pacific – News – OnIslam.net.

Own Our Oil


Own Our Oil is an Irish group of citizens with no political affiliation, who are deeply concerned that deals cut between previous Irish governments and oil and gas exploration companies are depriving people of Ireland of what is rightfully theirs.

Our mission is to change the terms relating to licensing and oversight of Ireland’s offshore and onshore oil & gas. We need (your help) to act now and we need you to be the driving force to bring about change urgently.

http://www.ownouroil.ie

via Own Our Oil – YouTube.

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