Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How Half of Terror Cases Investigated By the FBI ... Were Also Hatched by the FBI



Here is an important question: What single organization is responsible for more terror plots in the USA than any other?

Possible answers: Al Qaida. That would no doubt be the popular answer but it would be wrong. The KKK. Way past their prime, so that is not it. The Jewish Defense League. Good guess, but still not it. So what is the correct answer?

It is the Federal Bureau of Investigation, AKA the FBI. Don’t believe me? Well, just read Trevor Aaronson’s expose entitled “The Informants” published in the September/October 2011 issue of Mother Jones.

Read on...


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Are Virginia's New Abortion Rules the Worst Yet?

On Friday evening, Virginia's Department of Health issued a strict new set of rules for abortion clinics—and women's health advocates fear that facilities that can't comply could be shuttered.

The regulations require Virginia's 22 clinics to meet strict new physical standards; pre-op rooms, for example, must measure at least 80 square feet, and operating rooms must measure 250 square feet. Hallways must be at least five feet wide. The requirements are based on the state's 2010 guidelines for new outpatient surgical facilities.

Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, told Mother Jones on Monday that the new rules may actually be the most strict regulations in the United States. "It would be challenging for the majority of our facilities to continue offering first-trimester care," Keene said. "These are designed to really cease first-trimester abortion services in the Commonwealth of Virginia."

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Rights Group in Catch-22 of How to Prove It Was Targeted by Wiretapping Secret Program

NEW YORK and SAN FRANCISCO - August 30 - Last night the first brief was filed in the appeal in CCR v. Obama, a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) against the Bush administration in 2006 to challenge the legality of the National Security Administration’s (NSA) warrantless wiretapping program. The suit originally sought an injunction ordering the government to end the program, and in response to this and other litigation, the government claimed to have shut down the program by 2007. In the remaining part of the case, CCR asked the court to order the government to destroy any records of surveillance of the plaintiffs—CCR attorneys and legal staff who feared that their phone calls and emails were subject to surveillance under the program.

The government argued that CCR did not have standing to sue because the Center lacked evidence that its staff and attorneys had actually been surveilled (and could not obtain or use such evidence in the court proceedings because such evidence would be a “state secret”). The lower court agreed, holding that, even though “plaintiffs appear to have established that their litigation activities have become more costly due to their concern about [possible surveillance under the NSA program],” plaintiffs could not sue without proof that they had actually been eavesdropped upon. That ruling is now under appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

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Daryl Hannah Arrested At Keystone XL Pipeline Protest

Actress Daryl Hannah has joined the over 500 people who have been arrested since August 20 for a sit-in protest outside the White House.

Police officers arrest US actress Daryl Hannah during a protest against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, outside the White House in Washington, DC, August 30, 2011. Hannah was among dozens of protestors arrested in a demonstration against the oil pipeline which, if constructed, would run from Alberta's oilsands in Canada to Texas. (AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB)

The "Splash" and "Wall Street" star was one of nearly 100 people who were arrested on Tuesday for protesting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, according to a press release from Rainforest Action Network.

The Associated Press reports that Hannah sat by the White House sidewalk and refused to move under orders from U.S. Park Police.

According to Financial Post, Hannah shouted, “No to the Keystone pipeline” as she was being handcuffed.

The planned pipeline will run from the Canadian tar sands in Alberta to refineries on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It is currently waiting on approval from the White House.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK: STATE PRISON CLOSINGS

As a result of recent policy changes and pressures brought on by the fiscal crisis, state lawmakers are closing prisons after 40 years of record prison expansion. Declining prison populations in a number of states have resulted in excess prison capacity. During 2010, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported the first decline in the overall state prison population since 1977 and found 24 states had reduced prison populations during 2009.

In 2011 at least thirteen states have closed prison institutions or are contemplating doing so,
potentially reducing prison capacity by over 14,793 beds. Since 2002, Michigan has led the
nation in this regard. The state has closed 21 facilities, including prison camps, as a result of
sentencing and parole reforms. Overall, the state has reduced capacity by over 12,000 beds for a total cost savings of $339 million.1 Other states, including New Jersey and Kansas, have also closed prisons in recent years amid changes in sentencing policy and parole decision making that have resulted in a decline in state prison populations. Maryland also reduced prison capacity when it closed the Maryland House of Corrections in 2007 by transferring 850 prisoners to other prisons.2

Read on...

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Get to the bottom of G8 mess

Frankly, we’d rather turn the page on this sorry chapter of government misspending. Canadians already know that $50 million of their money – earmarked to reduce Canada/U.S. border congestion—was spent on a gazebo, flower planters, public toilets and other goodies in a Conservative minister’s Muskoka riding.

But the head-in-the-sand approach by prominent characters in this saga to the release of yet more troubling information makes that impossible.

Read on...

An editorial in the Toronto Star. Tom

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Police and Thieves: Making Sense of the English Riots

After witnessing several nights of turmoil, the people of the United Kingdom are still trying to comprehend what just happened. There's no simple explanation for this apparently leaderless and rudderless uprising in London and several other cities. But amid the grim ashes and street clashes, the message of rage has seared itself into the public consciousness, rekindling an age-old tinderbox of class warfare.

Burning car

Observers dismiss them as roaming bands of delinquents. Or they describe them as well-organized, tech-savvy flash mobs. They're portrayed alternately as greedy opportunists or as disaffected youth whose day-to-day misery goes ignored until a crisis breaks out. Reflecting the diversity of urban Britain, they are everyone and no one. And they're just kids.

Though the unrest initially grew out of a protest against police brutality in the poor, racially mixed enclave of Tottenham (where another famous riot took place in the 1980s), it's escalated to a level that many people couldn't imagine: So much breaking and burning happening in one of the most prosperous nations in the world.

Yet the riots bleakly mirror the state of working-class Britain. The initial demonstrations, over the death of a local young man, Mark Duggan, stoked long-simmering hatred for the police, who are notorious for mistreating black and Asian youth (paralleling the situation in U.S. cities).

Read on...

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Pa. judge gets 28 years in 'kids for cash'

SCRANTON, Pa. — A longtime northeastern Pennsylvania judge was ordered to spend nearly three decades in prison for his role in a massive juvenile justice bribery scandal that prompted the state's high court to toss thousands of convictions.

Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced Thursday to 28 years in federal prison for taking $1 million in bribes from the builder of a pair of juvenile detention centers in a case that became known as "kids for cash."

Ciavarella was motionless when the decision was announced and had no reaction. From behind him, where family members of some of the children he sentenced sat, someone cried out "Woo hoo!"

In the wake of the scandal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Turning Poverty Into an American Crime

I completed the manuscript for Nickel and Dimed in a time of seemingly boundless prosperity. Technology innovators and venture capitalists were acquiring sudden fortunes, buying up McMansions like the ones I had cleaned in Maine and much larger. Even secretaries in some high-tech firms were striking it rich with their stock options. There was loose talk about a permanent conquest of the business cycle, and a sassy new spirit infecting American capitalism. In San Francisco, a billboard for an e-trading firm proclaimed, “Make love not war,” and then—down at the bottom—“Screw it, just make money.”

When Nickel and Dimed was published in May 2001, cracks were appearing in the dot-com bubble and the stock market had begun to falter, but the book still evidently came as a surprise, even a revelation, to many. Again and again, in that first year or two after publication, people came up to me and opened with the words, “I never thought...” or “I hadn’t realized...”

Read on...

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These Guys Will Stop You From Killing Your Boss

The Primary, tall and flinty with a graying goatee, has decided he's in the mood for shopping, a development that's got David Perez all worked up. I'm sitting with Perez in a Chevy Silverado in downtown Santa Monica. A fit ex-Marine, Perez is in charge of the Primary's six-man protection detail. For 20 minutes, we've been waiting around in a grocery store parking lot, but now the Primary has parked his Porsche 911 Carrera at a shopping strip nearly a mile away. Though Perez already has three "countersurveillance" experts on the scene, he's antsy to join them. His client has a stalker, whom one of the team members had spotted earlier. The Silverado crawls through glacial traffic. "You're driving like an old lady!" Perez barks. "Catch the green!"

Perez and his partner Mike Gomez, a bodyguard resembling The Sopranos' Silvio, finally track down their client at a Barnes & Noble. Two of the countersurveillance guys go back to scouting for menaces, while Perez and Gomez, both of whom are trained sharpshooters and martial-arts experts, step in as the Primary's "close protection" team. Shoppers stare at the entourage, straining to recognize someone famous.

Read on...


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CNBC: British Riots - and unrest world wide - caused by "economic uncertainty"

While most mainstream news outlets are blaming the British riots on random thuggery, they are really an outgrowth of bad economic conditions and governments' poor response to the financial crisis.

As I've noted for years, raging inequality and policies which help the big boys at the expense of the "little people" are causing unrest - not just in Egypt - but worldwide.

Britain

As CNBC reports today:

Great Britain and other parts of the world are experiencing unrest at a time of global economic uncertainty and stock market volatility.

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Police in London say the violence began during a vigil for a man, Mark Duggan, who’d been killed by police. However, those on the streets say what's happening goes beyond one man's death.

In late June, half the public schools in Britain where closed by a massive protest over public pensions cuts, including three major teachers' unions, customs and immigration officers, and air traffic controllers. Some 750,000 people took part in the protest.

London's press has reported that discontent has been simmering among Britain's urban poor for years, in neighborhoods like Tottenham, where the riots started.

But as one man told NBC News about an economic protest two months ago, "There was not a word in the press about our protests. Last night (Saturday) a bit of rioting and looting and now look around you."

Read on....

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Hume: London riots a long way off, but closer than we’d like

A rioter walks through a burning barricade in Liverpool on Aug. 9.

A rioter walks through a burning barricade in Liverpool on Aug. 9.

It’s a long way from Tottenham to Toronto, but not as long as we might like.

No one expects the street violence that erupted in the London neighbourhood last Sunday to break out in this city anytime soon, but many of the same conditions prevail.

To begin with, there is a growing number of young men, aged roughly 15 to 20, largely immigrant, who feel little connection to the larger community. This sense of disenfranchisement, mixed with growing inner-suburban decay, perceived police hostility, overcrowding and lack of decent jobs, does not bode well for the future of Toronto.

Add to that the mayor’s proposed cuts in social services — everything from libraries and daycare to transit and snow removal — and we have the makings of disaster.

Read on...

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chomsky: Public Education Under Massive Corporate Assault — What's Next?

Converting schools and universities into facilities that produce commodities for the job market, privatizing them, slashing their budgets — do we really want this future?

The following is a partial transcript of a recent speech delivered by Noam Chomsky at the University of Toronto at Scarborough on the rapid privatization process of public higher education in the United States.




A couple of months ago, I went to Mexico to give talks at the National University in Mexico, UNAM. It's quite an impressive university — hundreds of thousands of students, high-quality and engaged students, excellent faculty. It's free. And the city — Mexico City — actually, the government ten years ago did try to add a little tuition, but there was a national student strike, and the government backed off. And, in fact, there's still an administrative building on campus that is still occupied by students and used as a center for activism throughout the city. There's also, in the city itself, another university, which is not only free but has open admissions. It has compensatory options for those who need them. I was there, too; it's also quite an impressive level, students, faculty, and so on. That's Mexico, a poor country.

Right after that I happened to go to California, maybe the richest place in the world. I was giving talks at the universities there. In California, the main universities — Berkeley and UCLA — they're essentially Ivy League private universities — colossal tuition, tens of thousands of dollars, huge endowment. General assumption is they are pretty soon going to be privatized, and the rest of the system will be, which was a very good system — best public system in the world — that's probably going to be reduced to technical training or something like that. The privatization, of course, means privatization for the rich [and a] lower level of mostly technical training for the rest. And that is happening across the country. Next year, for the first time ever, the California system, which was a really great system, best anywhere, is getting more funding from tuition than from the state of California. And that is happening across the country. In most states, tuition covers more than half of the college budget. It's also most of the public research universities. Pretty soon only the community colleges — you know, the lowest level of the system — will be state-financed in any serious sense. And even they're under attack. And analysts generally agree, I'm quoting, "The era of affordable four-year public universities heavily subsidized by the state may be over."

Read on...

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8 Years In Prison for a Harmless Prank? Handcuffed for Doodling? The Increasing Criminalization of Students

Young people are being suspended, expelled and charged with criminal offenses for behavior as innocuous as doodling on a desk.



A few months back, 18-year-old Tyell Morton was enjoying his senior year at Rushville High in Indiana. Today, he faces the prospect of being labeled a felon for the rest of his life for a harmless senior prank.

Morton was arrested for putting a blowup doll in a bathroom stall on the last day of school. He was caught when video footage showed a man entering the high school in a hooded sweatshirt and leaving a package in the bathroom. Fearing the package might be a bomb, school officials evacuated the premises and called the Indiana State bomb squad. Although no one was injured, no property damaged and no dangerous materials found, Morton, who had not been in any trouble prior to this incident, is being charged with disorderly conduct (a misdemeanor) and institutional criminal mischief (a class C felony), carrying the potential of two to eight years in prison.

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Panic on the Streets of London

I’m huddled in the front room with some shell-shocked friends, watching my city burn. The BBC is interchanging footage of blazing cars and running street battles in Hackney, of police horses lining up in Lewisham, of roiling infernos that were once shops and houses in Croydon and in Peckham. Last night, Enfield, Walthamstow, Brixton and Wood Green were looted; there have been hundreds of arrests and dozens of serious injuries, and it will be a miracle if nobody dies tonight. This is the third consecutive night of rioting in London, and the disorder has now spread to Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham. Politicians and police officers who only hours ago were making stony-faced statements about criminality are now simply begging the young people of Britain’s inner cities to go home. Britain is a tinderbox, and on Friday, somebody lit a match. How the hell did this happen? And what are we going to do now?

Read on...

Do you think this type of violence will be coming to your city......soon? Tom

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