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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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‘Anonymous’ Hacker Explains Why He Fled The US

Business Insider Mar. 2, 2012 By Michael Kelley Anonymous is front and center these days: the amorphous hacktivist group has been publishing internal data of U.S. banks while prominent members are prosecuted More »

Monthly Archives: December 2010

Minnesota: 3M discharged cancer-causing chemicals in Mississippi River

Raw Story
December 31, 2010
By David Edwards

The Minnesota attorney attorney general filed a lawsuit Thursday demanding that the 3M Co. pay to clean up contaminated water in three counties, alleging that the company discharged cancer-causing chemicals in the Mississippi River.

While the lawsuit did not ask for a specific dollar amount, potential damages could run in the tens of millions of dollars.


The state alleges that landfills used by 3M to store perfluorochemicals (PFCs) for decades have leaked into the Mississippi River and drinking water across the east-metro area.

The action comes after settlement talks between the state and 3M failed.

“The company caused damage to the environment,” Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said.

Full Article Here – http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/12/minnesota-sues-3m-pfc-water-contamination/

Research links rise in Falluja birth defects and cancers to US assault

Guardian
December 30, 2010
By Martin Chulov

A study examining the causes of a dramatic spike in birth defects in the Iraqi city of Falluja has for the first time concluded that genetic damage could have been caused by weaponry used in US assaults that took place six years ago.

The research, which will be published next week, confirms earlier estimates revealed by the Guardian of a major, unexplained rise in cancers and chronic neural-tube, cardiac and skeletal defects in newborns. The authors found that malformations are close to 11 times higher than normal rates, and rose to unprecedented levels in the first half of this year – a period that had not been surveyed in earlier reports.


The findings, which will be published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, come prior to a much-anticipated World Health Organisation study of Falluja’s genetic health. They follow two alarming earlier studies, one of which found a distortion in the sex ratio of newborns since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – a 15% drop in births of boys.

“We suspect that the population is chronically exposed to an environmental agent,” said one of the report’s authors, environmental toxicologist Mozhgan Savabieasfahani. “We don’t know what that environmental factor is, but we are doing more tests to find out.”

The report identifies metals as potential contaminating agents afflicting the city – especially among pregnant mothers. “Metals are involved in regulating genome stability,” it says. “As environmental effectors, metals are potentially good candidates to cause birth defects.

The findings are likely to prompt further speculation that the defects were caused by depleted uranium rounds, which were heavily used in two large battles in the city in April and November 2004. The rounds, which contain ionising radiation, are a core component of the armouries of numerous militaries and militias.

Their effects have long been called into question, with some scientists claiming they leave behind a toxic residue, caused when the round – either from an assault rifle or artillery piece – bursts through its target.
However, no evidence has yet been established that proves this, and some researchers instead claim that depleted uranium has been demonstrably proven not to be a contaminant.

The report acknowledges that other battlefield residues may also be responsible for the defects. “Many known war contaminants have the potential to interfere with normal embryonic and foetal development,” the report says. “The devastating effect of dioxins on the reproductive health of the Vietnamese people is well-known.”

The latest Falluja study surveyed 55 families with seriously deformed newborns between May and August. It was conducted by Dr Samira Abdul Ghani, a paediatrician at Falluja general hospital. In May, 15% of the 547 babies born had serious birth defects. In the same period, 11% of babies were born at less than 30 weeks and 14% of foetuses spontaneously aborted.

The researchers believe that the figures understate what they describe as an epidemic of abnormalities, because a large number of babies in Falluja are born at home with parents reluctant to seek help from authorities.

One case documented in the report is of a mother and her daughter who after the 2004 battles both gave birth to babies with severe malformations. The second wife of one of the fathers also had a severely deformed baby in 2009.

“It is important to understand that under normal conditions, the chances of such occurrences is virtually zero,” said Savabieasfahani.

Iraq’s government has built a new hospital in Fallujah, but the city’s obstetricians have complained that they are still overwhelmed by the sheer number of serious defects. The US military has long denied that it is responsible for any contaminant left behind in the city, or elsewhere in Iraq, as it continues its steady departure from the country it has occupied for almost eight years.

It has said that Iraqis who want to file a complaint are welcome to do so. Several families interviewed by the Guardian in November 2009 said they had filed complaints but had not received replies.

The World Health Organisation is due to begin its research sometime next year. However, there are fears that an extensive survey may not be possible in the still volatile city that still experiences assassinations and bombings most weeks.

Full Article Here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/30/faulluja-birth-defects-iraq 

63 Percent of Americans Oppose War In Afghanistan

Huffington Post
December 30, 2010
By Amanda Terkel

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Opposition to the war in Afghanistan is at an all-time high, with 63 percent of the public now opposed to U.S. involvement there, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey. Just 35 percent of survey respondents say they still support U.S. involvement.

The increase in opposition to U.S. involvement comes as pessimism about how the war is going is rising. According to a poll done Dec. 17-19, 56 percent of the public believes that “things are going badly for the U.S. in Afghanistan.”

The war has not always been unpopular — back in March, when a majority thought that the war was going well, the country was evenly divided. But by September, the number who said that things were going well for the U.S. in Afghanistan had dropped to 44 percent, and opposition to the war had grown to 58 percent,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Today, with Americans remaining pessimistic about the situation in Afghanistan, they also remain opposed to the war.”

Full Article Here – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/30/63-percent-of-american-public-opposes-war-afghanistan_n_802765.html 

Rig owner refuses to honor oil spill subpoenas

Associated Press
December 30, 2010
By HARRY R. WEBER

NEW ORLEANS – The owner of the rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico is refusing to honor subpoenas from a federal board that has challenged the company’s involvement in monitoring the testing of a key piece of equipment that failed to stop the oil spill disaster.

Transocean said the U.S. Chemical Safety Board does not have jurisdiction in the probe, so it doesn’t have a right to the documents and other items it seeks. The board told The Associated Press late Wednesday that it does have jurisdiction and it has asked the Justice Department to intervene to enforce the subpoenas.


Last week, the board demanded that the testing of the failed blowout preventer stop until Transocean and Cameron International are removed from any hands-on role in the examination. It said it’s a conflict of interest. The request is pending.

Testing at a NASA facility in New Orleans is on hold for the holidays anyway and isn’t expected to resume until Jan. 10, according to officials monitoring the tests and a status update distributed to interested parties.

Besides documents, the board said Transocean has also denied it access to witnesses — specifically a half-dozen of the rig company’s employees the board wants to question.

The jurisdiction dispute surrounds whether the Deepwater Horizon rig was a stationary unit or a mobile vessel. The rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and leading to more than 200 million gallons of oil being released from BP’s undersea well, according to government estimates

The board’s primary jurisdiction to investigate serious chemical accidents and make recommendations involves hazardous releases to the air by fixed industrial facilities. The board’s managing director, Daniel Horowitz, asserted in an interview that the rig was tethered and not functioning as a moving vessel at the time of the accident, making it a stationary site.


Full Article Here – http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101230/ap_on_re_us/us_gulf_oil_spill_investigation

Police demand new powers to stop and search terror suspects

Guardian
December 29, 2010
By Vikram Dodd

Police have asked the government for a new counter-terrorism power to stop and search people without having to suspect them of involvement in crime, the Guardian has learned.

Senior officers have told the government the new law is needed to better protect the public against attempted attacks on large numbers of people, and are hopeful they can win ministers’ backing.

A previous law allowing counter-terrorism stops without suspicion, section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, was scrapped this year by the home secretary, Theresa May, after European judges struck it down for breaching human rights.

But police, including the Metropolitan force, which leads the UK fight against terrorism, say they need a boost to their counter-terrorism powers, which they worry are now too weak.

They have asked for a law which would be much more limited than section 44. It would be restricted to a specific period of time and to a limited geographic area or a specific place or event.

The new stop and search power would need primary legislation to become law and it is believed it could be introduced within months. Police believe it will be needed to protect events such as the 2012 Olympics in London, state occasions such as trooping the colour, and major summits such as the G20 when they are held in the UK.

Stop and search powers are controversial because ethnic minority people have been targeted more than white people, triggering claims that some officers are using them in a discriminatory way.

A source with knowledge of the discussions told the Guardian: “The key thing is to get this power without its use being random. You can’t have a random power because of the judgment, but some new power is needed. The power would need to be signed off by a senior officer, maybe even a chief constable, and the home secretary. It could cover an event of high importance such as the Olympics. It would be for a limited time and in a limited geographical place, and at a time when the threat level is severe.”

Currently section 43 of the Terrorism Act allows searches, but an officer must have reasonable suspicion for the stop to be lawful. The source added that police were now tactically hampered in the fight against terrorism.

Another source with knowledge of the plans said: “Everyone now realises it [section 44] was a blunt instrument. If it is time-limited, it should comply with the European ruling.”

The issue of powers to fight terrorism that infringe on civil liberties is causing friction within the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. A review of counter-terrorism powers has already been delayed after a row over whether control orders should be retained.

Full Article Here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/dec/29/police-stop-and-search-powers 

Dodging Repatriation Tax Lets U.S. Companies Bring Home Multinational Cash

Bloomberg
December 29, 2010
By Jesse Drucker

At the White House on Dec. 15, business executives asked President Obama for a tax holiday that would help them tap more than $1 trillion of offshore earnings, much of it sitting in island tax havens.

The money — including hundreds of billions in profits that U.S. companies attribute to overseas subsidiaries to avoid taxes — is supposed to be taxed at up to 35 percent when it’s brought home, or “repatriated.” Executives including John T. Chambers of Cisco Systems Inc. say a tax break would return a flood of cash and boost the economy.

What nobody’s saying publicly is that U.S. multinationals are already finding legal ways to avoid that tax.
Over the years, they’ve brought cash home, tax-free, employing strategies with nicknames worthy of 1970s conspiracy thrillers — including “the Killer B” and “the Deadly D.”


Merck & Co Inc., the second-largest drugmaker in the U.S., last year brought more than $9 billion from abroad without paying any U.S. tax to help finance its acquisition of Schering-Plough Corp., securities filings show. Merck is also appealing a federal judge’s 2009 finding that Schering-Plough owed taxes on $690 million it had earlier brought home from overseas tax-free.

The largest drugmaker, Pfizer Inc., imported more than $30 billion from offshore in connection with its acquisition of Wyeth last year, while taking steps to minimize the tax hit on its publicly reported profit.

Disclosures in Switzerland and Delaware by Eli Lilly & Co. show the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company carried out many of the steps for a tax-free importation of foreign cash after its roughly $6 billion purchase of ImClone Systems Inc. in 2008.

‘Trivially Small Taxes’

“Sophisticated U.S. companies are routinely repatriating hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign earnings and paying trivially small U.S. taxes on those repatriations,” said Edward D. Kleinbard, a law professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “They devote enormous resources first to moving income to tax havens, and then to bringing those profits back to the U.S. at the lowest possible tax cost.”

Full Article Here – http://www.bloomberg.com/news/print/2010-12-29/dodging-repatriation-tax-lets-u-s-companies-bring-home-cash.html

Terrorist watch list: One tip now enough to put name in database, officials say

Washington Post
December 29, 2010
By Ellen Nakashima

A year after a Nigerian man allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, officials say they have made it easier to add individuals’ names to a terrorist watch list and improved the government’s ability to thwart an attack in the United States.

The failure to put Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on the watch list last year renewed concerns that the government’s system to screen out potential terrorists was flawed. Even though Abdulmutallab’s father had told U.S. officials of his son’s radicalization in Yemen, government rules dictated that a single-source tip was insufficient to include a person’s name on the watch list.


Since then, senior counterterrorism officials say they have altered their criteria so that a single-source tip, as long as it is deemed credible, can lead to a name being placed on the watch list.

The government’s master watch list is one of roughly a dozen lists, or databases, used by counterterrorism officials. Officials have periodically adjusted the criteria used to maintain it.

But civil liberties groups argue that the government’s new criteria, which went into effect over the summer, have made it even more likely that individuals who pose no threat will be swept up in the nation’s security apparatus, leading to potential violations of their privacy and making it difficult for them to travel.

“They are secret lists with no way for people to petition to get off or even to know if they’re on,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Officials insist they have been vigilant about keeping law-abiding people off the master list. The new criteria have led to only modest growth in the list, which stands at 440,000 people, about 5 percent larger than last year. The vast majority are non-U.S. citizens.

“Despite the challenges we face, we have made significant improvements,” Michael E. Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in a speech this month at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “And the result of that is, in my view, that the threat of that most severe, most complicated attack is significantly lower today than it was in 2001.”

The master watch list is used to screen people seeking to obtain a visa, cross a U.S. border, or board an airliner in or destined for the United States.

Full Article Here – https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/29/AR2010122901584.html 

Nigeria’s deal to drop Cheney charges called illegal

Raw Story
December 28, 2010
By Daniel Tencer

Lawyers and media pundits in Nigeria are accusing the government of acting illegally by agreeing to settle criminal bribery charges against Dick Cheney out of court.

Nigeria charged Cheney and applied for an Interpol arrest warrant earlier this month in connection with a $180-million bribery case. Cheney’s former employer, Halliburton, reportedly agreed to pay $35 million to see the charges dropped.

But Nigeria could see as much as $250 million from the deal, in “the form of a deal to free up Nigerian money that had been locked away in Swiss bank accounts,” The Nation‘s John Nichols reports.


Critics of the deal say it has no basis in Nigerian law, which reportedly does not allow plea deals in criminals cases.

In a letter to Nigeria’s anti-corruption watchdog, Osuagwu Ugochukwu, a prominent lawyer in Abuja, said the withdrawal of charges against Cheney was a breach of the law.

“We know as a point of law that once a criminal charge has been filed in a competent court, issue of penalty of fine is for the courts to impose and not parties,” he wrote. “Hence, we are shocked to hear that EFCC imposed a fine on an accused person. We also know as a point of law that criminal matters cannot be settled out of court as in civil matters in Nigeria.”

Full Article Here – http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/12/nigerias-drop-cheney-charges-illegal/

Journalist shot dead in Honduras

Deutsche Presse-Agentur
December 28, 2010

Tegucigalpa – A journalist was killed in Honduras on Tuesday, said police, who were still to identify the attackers.

TV reporter Henry Suazo was shot dead in La Masica, in the Caribbean province of Atlantida. Suazo worked for Radio HRN, one of the most important radio stations in the country, and for television channel Cablevision.

Cablevision owner Jorge Abilio Diaz said Suazo was leaving his home when he was attacked.

The motive for the murder was not immediately known, and the killers, who escaped the scene, were yet to be identified.

Suazo is the 10th journalist killed in Honduras this year, according to local media and non-governmental organizations.

Full Article Here – http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/americas/news/article_1608292.php/Journalist-shot-dead-in-Honduras

Activist groups take full advantage of new media outlets to spread their message

Washington Post
December 28, 2010
By Krissah Thompson

When black college students began the sit-in protests that led to the integration of the Jim Crow South, news spread quickly by word of mouth. Soon, students in several states were engaged in similar nonviolent sit-ins, spurring on the civil rights movement.

Fast forward 50 years: Civil rights activists advocating everything from reform of the criminal justice system to boycotts of conservative media figures are trying to revive that kind of energy using tweets, e-mails, Facebook friends and carefully crafted blog postings.


“We try to create opportunities for everyday people who are not going to be your in-the-street activists,” said James Rucker, co-founder of ColorofChange.org, an online civil rights group that he said has an e-mail list of 800,000. “We’re trying to make it so that there’s an easy way to get involved in making change happen.”

Such online activism is succeeding in fits and starts. Color of Change, which was started five years ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, was one of the drivers behind the large protest marches and fundraisers in 2007 that eventually led to reduced charges for a half-dozen young black men in Jena, La., tied to the assault on a white classmate. Color of Change members and donors sent in $285,000 to help pay for their legal team, which got the charges reduced from attempted murder to a misdemeanor.

On the other hand, a campaign in September that sought to raise money for groups working to revive the black community in New Orleans flopped, Rucker said. Few people sent in contributions, and he could not get his online community to buy in.

Much of Rucker’s work involves telling a compelling story and finding what he calls a “theory of change,” or a cause that the group’s members can directly impact with a click of their mouse. “The Internet has the power to democratize, and it has the power to amplify voices,” he said.

The nation’s oldest civil rights groups have begun to recognize the shift. The NAACP revamped its Web site last year and has begun a blog. Its Facebook page, which had only a couple thousand supporters two years ago, has more than 40,000, and its online advocacy list has grown to 400,000 members. It also sends out periodic text messages.

“We have placed our new media strategy at the nexus of our work on Capitol Hill and in the field,” NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said.

Hispanic civil rights groups are launching similar efforts. Rucker helped build the online infrastructure for Presente.org, which now has an e-mail list of 250,000, and helped raise awareness about the DREAM act, federal legislation that would have made it possible for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to gain citizenship. Presente sent out e-mails and pushed media coverage of a group of undocumented youths, called the “DREAMers,” who walked 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington in support of the legislation, which failed to pass the Senate this month. But President Obama has said he supports it and plans to press for an overhaul of immigration law next year.
 
Minority presence online

The growth of online activism targeting blacks and Hispanics has been spurred in part by data showing that minorities are outpacing other racial and ethnic groups in the use of social media. Research by the Pew Internet & Family Life Project has found that minority Internet users are more than twice as likely to use Twitter as are white Internet users. And in the past decade, the proportion of Internet users who are black or Latino has nearly doubled- from 11 percent to 21 percent.

Full Article Here – http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/27/AR2010122703543.html?hpid=topnews