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2010 October | Activist News | Page 2

The Road to World War 3

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Edward Snowden

Open Letter To Obama

July 26, 2013 President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500 Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution Dear Mr. President: You are acutely aware More »


U.S. Companies Pay Just One-Third Of The Legal Tax Rate: GAO Study

Huffington Post July 1, 2013 By Mark Gongloff Big, profitable U.S. companies paid an average federal tax rate of less than 13 percent in 2010, according to a new study — or More »

jeff olsen

Man Tried for Chalk Drawings Found Not Guilty

NBC San Diego July 1, 2013 By Christina London The man accused of vandalism for drawing with chalk outside banks has been found not guilty on all charges. A jury returned its More »


The Bigger Story Behind the AP Spying Scandal

Washington’s Blog/Global Research May 20, 2012 By George Washington Attack on the Press You know that the Department of Justice tapped scores of phone lines at the Associated Press. You might have More »

Monthly Archives: October 2010

Cement at BP well failed lab testing

Washington Post
October 29, 2010
By Steven Mufson

As early as February, oil-field service giant Halliburton was getting poor results in lab tests of the recipe for the cement it was planning to use, according to evidence collected by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

Three separate tests suggested that the mixture would be “unstable,” according to a commission staff letter released Thursday. Halliburton notified BP by e-mail about only one of the tests before the well explosion, according to the commission. The two companies went ahead with the cementing job anyway. Its failure became the first in a cascade of factors leading to the accident.

The results of a fourth Halliburton test – the only one indicating that the cement slurry might have been able to contain the high-pressure pool of oil and gas at the bottom of the Macondo well – were not available until the night of April 19 at the earliest and perhaps not until after the cement was poured, the commission staff said.

The oil spill commission is sifting through the events leading to the April 20 explosion, which killed 11 workers, sank the Deepwater Horizon and triggered a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The cement at the bottom of the exploratory well was supposed to have provided a seal until a production facility could be built.

The reason for the cement job’s failure has been a matter of dispute for months. Halliburton has pointed at BP; BP has challenged Halliburton. Experts still differ.

Halliburton late Thursday night issued a statement disputing the commission staff’s letter, calling the February tests “preliminary” and saying that “final well conditions were not known at that time.” The company asserted that it informed BP about the later tests. It called one of those “irrelevant” and said that some adjustments were made after the final test.

The news spooked shareholders; Halliburton’s stock closed at $31.68 a share, down nearly 8 percent. BP said it had no comment.

The commission letter reiterated that the cement was just one contributor to the disaster. “Cementing wells is a complex endeavor, and industry experts inform us that cementing failures are not uncommon even in the best of circumstances,” the commission letter says.

But the new details call into question whether Halliburton’s recipe – which mixed nitrogen and other additives with ordinary cement to create a foamy mixture – was the right one.

Full Article Here – http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/28/AR2010102807327.html 

Total US intelligence bill tops $80 billion

Associated Press
October 28, 2010

WASHINGTON – The annual cost of U.S. intelligence is public for the first time: just over $80 billion for 2010.

Figures released by the government Thursday show $27 billion goes to military intelligence and $53.1 billion covers the CIA and some of the other 16 intelligence agencies.

Steven Aftergood, a secrecy specialist at the Federation of American Scientists, says it’s “the most complete disclosure we have ever had.”

The $80 billion exceeds the $51 billion spent on the State Department and foreign aid programs in 2010. But it’s only a tenth of the $814 billion economic stimulus program passed by Congress last year.

The new director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that it was time to tell the American public the total cost of intelligence.

The last director of national intelligence, retired Admiral Dennis Blair, had revealed in congressional testimony that the 2009 figure was around $75 billion. Clapper said he has convinced Defense Secretary Robert Gates to make it standard practice to release the actual figure.

The military budget goes to places like Army and Navy intelligence and the Defense Intelligence Agency, while some organizations, such as the National Security Agency and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, get funding from both budgets, Aftergood says.

The figures drew an immediate pledge to slash intelligence spending from Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. She said intelligence spending had “blossomed to an unacceptable level in the past decade,” doubling since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Given the country’s financial situation, “cuts will be necessary,” Feinstein said. She did not indicate what programs she would target, but she noted that this year’s $27 billion military budget includes supplemental funding for counterterrorism and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Full Article Here – http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101028/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_intelligence_budget

Nigeria slum clearance could leave 200,000 ‘homeless’

October 28, 2010

LAGOS — A Nigerian state government’s scheme to tear down slums for modern buildings including a hotel and theme park could leave more than 200,000 people homeless, Amnesty International warned on Thursday.

Waterfront shanty settlements are being razed in the oil hub city of Port Harcourt in southern Nigeria under a so-called “urban renewal” scheme.

“More than 200,000 people will be at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods,” as a result, Amnesty said in a report released Thursday.

The evictions, which began in August last year, were carried out by armed security agents without prior consultation with the affected communities, compensation or resettlement plans, it also said.

Amnesty said that a cinema complex has since sprung up in one of the districts pulled down while commercial ventures such as “a theme park, a conference centre, a shopping mall and a hotel,” are under way.

Ibim Semenitari, Rivers State government spokewoman, confirmed to AFP that some commercial projects would be established, but added that the acquired spaces will be “mainly for housing.”

She said the slums were too dilapidated for habitation.

“The communities are…worse than slums. Often times there are a lot of floodings in these areas,” she said.

“These are not communities in which a respected government would leave its people,” she added.

Semenitari also said a study had found that “one of the places where criminal conduct was most rife was in the waterfront.”

But Amnesty accused the state authorities of incessant breaches of rights in the blitz.

“The Rivers State government has consistently violated its international human rights obligations by carrying out forced evictions in Port Harcourt’s waterfront settlements,” the report said.

“It has announced demolition of all the waterfront areas without putting in place legal protections and other safeguards against forced eviction,” it said.

Full Article Here – http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/10/nigeria-slum-clearance-200k-homeless/

Foreclosure activity up across most US metro areas

Associated Press
October 28, 2010

LOS ANGELES – The foreclosure crisis intensified across a majority of large U.S. metropolitan areas this summer, with Chicago and Seattle — cities outside of the states that have shouldered the worst of the housing downturn — seeing a sharp increase in foreclosure warnings.

California, Nevada, Florida and Arizona remain the nation’s foreclosure hotbeds, accounting for 19 of the top 20 metropolitan areas with the highest foreclosure rates between July and September, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

Those states saw housing values surge during the housing boom years. When the boom ended, values collapsed and foreclosures soared.

But the latest data show that many of the metro areas in those states saw a decline in the number of households receiving foreclosure-related filings, while many cities in other states saw a spike in foreclosure activity.

“The epidemic is spreading from the states at the ground zero of the foreclosure problems out into areas that hadn’t been previously affected,” said Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at RealtyTrac.

The trend is the latest sign that the nation’s foreclosure crisis is worsening as homeowners facing high unemployment, slow job growth and uncertainty about home prices continue to fall behind on their mortgage payments.

In all, 133 out of 206 metropolitan areas with at least 200,000 residents posted an annual increase in foreclosure activity in the three months ended Sept. 30, RealtyTrac said.

The firm tracks notices for defaults, scheduled home auctions and home repossessions — warnings that can lead up to a home eventually being lost to foreclosure.

Eleven out of the nation’s 20 largest metropolitan areas saw foreclosure activity increase in the third quarter compared to the same period last year.

Full Article Here – http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101028/ap_on_bi_ge/us_foreclosure_rates

Thousands Join Massive Protest in Romania

Balkan Insight
October 27, 2010
By Marian Chiriac

Ten of thousands of Romanians have joined large-scale protests in Bucharest against austerity measures, as the country’s government prepares to face a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Local broadcasters estimate that 30,000 protesters are now marching in downtown Bucharest in the largest street protest in Romania this year. The center of the city has been largely blocked off, with local public transport company changing most bus routes in the area.

Protesters are asking for the dismissal of the country’s center-right government and expressing their discontent with salary and job cuts for state employees, as well as cuts in education and the pension system.

Several members of Romania’s main opposition Social Democratic Party, PSD, have also joined the march, together with their leader Victor Ponta.

The protest was scheduled to coincide with a no-confidence vote against the government, which was tabled by the opposition over the government’s economic policies.

Full Article Here – http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/huge%20protest%20in%20romania

Polish Prosecutor Will Investigate Torture Of Guantánamo Prisoner

October 27, 2010

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – The Polish prosecutor will investigate the detention and torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri at a black site in Poland after he was kidnapped and transported there by the CIA. This is the first time an extraordinary rendition victim’s claims have been recognized in an official investigation in Poland. In response to the announcement, the American Civil Liberties Union called for accountability in the U.S. for top-level officials who may have known about and authorized torture, and for cooperation with the Polish prosecutor in securing documents and witnesses in the ongoing investigation.

In civil litigation, the Obama administration has continued to shield the Bush administration officials who knew about and authorized torture, most recently using the state secrets claim to block an ACLU lawsuit on behalf of five rendition victims. And while some low-ranking soldiers have been sent to prison for their roles in torture, no senior official has thus far been charged with any crime in connection with the torture program.

Al-Nashiri, who is accused in the 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing, was granted the status of “injured party” in Poland’s ongoing investigation into torture in response to a September 21 petition from his lawyers.

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director at the ACLU:

“Today’s announcement that Poland will investigate the torture of Mr. al-Nashiri serves as a stark reminder of how little has been done in the U.S. to hold top officials accountable for torture. Holding torturers accountable is essential to restoring American credibility at home and abroad – the U.S. can no longer remain silent as, one by one, other nations begin to reckon with their own agents’ complicity in the torture program through prosecutions and judicial inquiries.”

Full Article Here – http://www.aclu.org/national-security/polish-prosecutor-will-investigate-torture-guantanamo-prisoner

Pentagon’s threat-prediction system would scan emails, texts

Raw Story
October 27, 2010
By Daniel Tencer

In an effort to prevent the next Fort Hood-style shooting before it happens, the Pentagon has launched a program to scan massive amounts of communications and detect anomalies in behavior that could predict “insider threats” to the military.

While the Pentagon’s advanced research arm describes the project as being designed to detect threats to the military from within its own ranks, critics say such a system would inevitably invade the privacy of millions of people and could be the thin end of the wedge towards a “police state.”

Earlier this month, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency posted a notice announcing the project. The agency has set aside $35 million for the effort, which has been dubbed ADAMS, or “Anomaly Detection at Multiple Scales.”

If successful, the project would “detect ‘anomalies’ in a person’s behavior by sifting through billions of e-mail and text messages prior to such a homicidal or suicidal outburst,” reports Government Security News.

“The focus is on malevolent insiders that started out as ‘good guys.’ The specific goal of ADAMS is to detect anomalous behaviors before or shortly after they turn,” the agency states.

But DARPA’s description (PDF) of the project doesn’t address the issue of how a system to scan all communications within a certain area would square with constitutional rights and privacy laws.

As DARPA itself notes, a military base like Fort Hood, with 65,000 people on site, would be linked to some 4.7 billion instances of electronic communication among 14.9 million people ever year — a very wide net to cast in search of potential crime.

Full Article Here – http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/10/pentagon-threat-prediction-scan-communications/

Fed Won’t Join Appeal to Keep Its Loans Secret

Bloomberg News
October 27, 2010

The Federal Reserve will not join a group of leading commercial banks in asking the Supreme Court to allow the government to withhold details of emergency loans made to financial companies in 2008.

Because of this decision, the court is less likely to hear the case, said Thomas C. Goldstein, a Washington lawyer who has argued 22 cases before the Supreme Court since 1999 and whose Scotusblog Web site tracks the court.

The Clearing House Association, a group of the biggest commercial banks, filed the appeal on Tuesday. Under federal rules for appeals, a lower court’s order requiring disclosure remains postponed until the Supreme Court acts.

The association is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that requires the Fed to disclose records of its emergency lending. Until Tuesday, the Fed had been part of the appeal process. Bloomberg L.P., the parent company of Bloomberg News, sued for the release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

Full Article Here – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/27/business/27fed.html?_r=1

U.S. companies hoarding almost $1 trillion cash: Moody’s

October 26, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. companies are hoarding almost $1 trillion in cash but are unlikely to spend on expanding their business and hiring new employees due to continuing uncertainty about the strength of the economy, Moody’s Investors Service said on Tuesday.

As the economy stabilizes companies are also more likely to spend on share repurchases and mergers and acquisitions, Moody’s added.

Companies cut costs, reduced investment in plants and equipment and downsized operations in order to boost cash holdings during the recession. As the corporate bond market reopened many companies also boosted cash levels by selling debt and refinancing near-term debt maturities.

Nonfinancial U.S. companies are sitting on $943 billion of cash and short-term investments, as of mid-year 2010, compared with $775 billion at the end of 2008, Moody’s said. This would be enough to cover a year’s worth of capital spending and dividends and still have $121 billion left over, it said.

However, “we believe companies are looking for greater certainty about the economy and signs of a permanent increase in sales before they let go of their cash hoards, which they suffered so much to build,” Moody’s said in a report.

“Given low demand and capacity utilization within certain industries, companies are wary of investing their cash in new capacity and adding workers, thereby doing little to abbreviate the jobless recovery,” it added.

Around one quarter of the cash is held overseas and is unlikely to be repatriated to the United States, Moody’s said.

Meanwhile only 20 companies hold a large portion of corporate cash balances, with $346 billion on their balance sheets, or 37 percent of the total, Moody’s said.

Full Article Here – http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20101027/bs_nm/us_corporates_cash_moodys

US slips to historic low in global corruption index

October 26, 2010
By Dave Graham

(Reuters) – The United States has dropped out of the “top 20″ in a global league table of least corrupt nations, tarnished by financial scandals and the influence of money in politics, Transparency International said on Tuesday.

Somalia was judged the most corrupt country, followed by Myanmar and Afghanistan at joint second-worst and then by Iraq, in the Berlin-based watchdog TI’s annual corruption perceptions index (CPI).

The United States fell to 22nd from 19th last year, with its CPI score dropping to 7.1 from 7.5 in the 178-nation index, which is based on independent surveys on corruption.

This was the lowest score awarded to the United States in the index’s 15-year history and also the first time it had fallen out of the top 20.

In the Americas, this put the United States behind Canada in sixth place, Barbados at 17th and Chile in 21st place.

Jointly heading the index — in which a score of 10 indicates a country with the highest standards, and 0 as highly corrupt — were Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore with 9.3. They were also at the top of the table last year.

Somalia scored 1.1. The watchdog group said its table was based on “different assessments and business opinion surveys carried out by independent and reputable institutions.”


Nancy Boswell, president of TI in the United States, said lending practices in the subprime crisis, the disclosure of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and rows over political funding had all rattled public faith about prevailing ethics in America.

“We’re not talking about corruption in the sense of breaking the law,” she said. “We’re talking about a sense that the system is corrupted by these practices. There’s an integrity deficit.”

Various financial scandals at state and city level had encouraged the impression that the regulatory oversight was weak and that influence could be bought, she added.

The index showed a number of countries — including Iran — climbing up the chart significantly from 2009, though TI said this could often be ascribed to the fact that different surveys were being used that offered no direct comparison to last year.

The fact that nearly three quarters of the countries scored 5.0 or less showed corruption was still a major global problem, said Robin Hodess, director of policy and research at TI.

However, the watchdog identified Bhutan, Chile, Ecuador, Macedonia, Gambia, Haiti, Jamaica, Kuwait, and Qatar as states where improvement had been made over the past year.

Full Article Here – http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE69P0X620101026