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

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Man Tried for Chalk Drawings Found Not Guilty

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The Bigger Story Behind the AP Spying Scandal

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‘Anonymous’ Hacker Explains Why He Fled The US

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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Fukushima Debacle Risks Chernobyl ‘Dead Zone’ as Radiation in Soil Soars

Bloomberg
May 30, 2011
By Yuriy Humber and Stuart Biggs

Radioactive soil in pockets of areas near Japan’s crippled nuclear plant have reached the same level as Chernobyl, where a “dead zone” remains 25 years after the reactor in the former Soviet Union exploded.

Soil samples in areas outside the 20-kilometer (12 miles) exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant measured more than 1.48 million becquerels a square meter, the standard used for evacuating residents after the Chernobyl accident, Tomio Kawata, a fellow at the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, said in a research report published May 24 and given to the government.

Radiation from the plant has spread over 600 square kilometers (230 square miles), according to the report. The extent of contamination shows the government must move fast to avoid the same future for the area around Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant as Chernobyl, scientists said. Technology has improved since the 1980s, meaning soil can be decontaminated with chemicals or by planting crops to absorb radioactive materials, allowing residents to return.


“We need to finish this treatment as quickly as possible, within three years at most,” Tetsuo Iguchi, a specialist in isotope analysis and radiation detection at Nagoya University in central Japan, said in a telephone interview.

“If we take longer, people will give up on returning to their homes.”

Soil Samples

Soil samples showed one site with radiation from Cesium-137 exceeding 5 million becquerels per square meter about 25 kilometers to the northwest of the Fukushima plant, according to Kawata’s study. Five more sites about 30 kilometers from Dai- Ichi showed radiation exceeding 1.48 million becquerels per square meter.

When asked to comment on the report today, Tokyo Electric spokesman Tetsuya Terasawa said the radiation levels are in line with those found after a nuclear bomb test, which disperses plutonium. He declined to comment further.

Full Article Here – http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-30/japan-risks-chernobyl-like-dead-zone-as-fukushima-soil-radiation-soars.html

Hackers Broaden Their Attacks

Wall Street Journal
May 30, 2011
By BEN WORTHEN, RUSSELL ADAMS, NATHAN HODGE and EVAN RAMSTAD

Hacking incidents at defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. and broadcaster PBS that surfaced over the past few days show how widespread corporate breaches have become and underline how any organization can become a victim.

Over the weekend, the website for the PBS show “NewsHour” was altered by hackers to include a fake article claiming that rapper Tupac Shakur, who was murdered 15 years ago, was alive in New Zealand. The hackers also posted login information that stations and other entities use to access PBS sites.

The incident followed a recent breach at Lockheed, which said Saturday evening that it had detected a “significant and tenacious attack” against its computer networks on May 21. The company said it stopped the attack before data could be stolen.


The attacks are the latest in a mushrooming of breaches world-wide. While hackers once generally had targeted companies that stored financial data or had classified government information, culprits today are expanding their sights to other corporate secrets or seeking information that can lead to valuable data down the line. Amateur hackers also are becoming increasingly brazen.

In recent months, hackers stole data from EMC Corp.’s RSA security unit, email marketer Epsilon Data Management LLC, two of South Korea’s largest banks and Sony Corp., where the breach temporarily hobbled its online PlayStation Network.

“Almost anyone is a target,” said Alex Stamos, chief technology officer at security firm iSEC Partners. Professional hackers now “have good tools and good technique and know how to string them together,” he said. Hackers also are getting better at identifying the soft spots in corporate defenses, he said.

So-called hactivists, who take revenge on companies for perceived slights, also have moved from simply knocking websites offline to stealing data. “There are enough people out there who aren’t worried about the consequences that they are willing to wage a sustained campaign against a global company,” Mr. Stamos said.

Chiquita sued over Colombian paramilitary payments

Associated Press
May 30, 2011
By CURT ANDERSON

MIAMI — Each name is next to a number, in black type on a thick legal document. They are the mothers and fathers, spouses, sisters and brothers of thousands of Colombians who were killed or vanished during a bloody civil conflict between leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups whose victims have largely been civilians.

The list has at least 4,000 names, each one targeting Chiquita Brands International in U.S. lawsuits, claiming the produce giant’s payments and other assistance to the paramilitary groups amounted to supporting terrorists.

Cincinnati-based Chiquita in 2007 pleaded guilty to similar criminal charges brought by the Justice Department and paid a $25 million fine. But if the lawsuits succeed, plaintiffs’ lawyers estimate the damages against Chiquita could reach into the billions. The cases filed around the country are being consolidated before a South Florida federal judge who must decide whether to dismiss them or let them proceed.


“A company that pays a terrorist organization that kills thousands of people should get the capital punishment of civil liability and be put out of business by punitive damages,” said attorney Terry Collingsworth, who filed one of the first lawsuits on behalf of Colombians.

Chiquita has long maintained it was essentially blackmailed into paying the paramilitary groups – perpetrators of the majority of civilian deaths in Colombia’s dirty war – and insists the lawsuits should be dismissed.

“Chiquita was extorted in Colombia and company officials believed that the payments were necessary to prevent violent retaliation against employees,” said company spokesman Ed Loyd.

The lawsuits could be strengthened by the recent release of some 5,500 pages of internal Chiquita documents that were produced during the Justice Department probe. The documents detail how payments were hidden by accounting maneuvers, and shed light on Colombian government and political involvement with the paramilitary group. They also show there was a debate among Chiquita executives about whether the payments were proper.

In a 1997 handwritten note, one Chiquita executive said such payments are the “cost of doing business in Colombia.”

‘Spy cameras’ are used to target student protesters

The Independent
May 30, 2011
By Richard Garner and Sarah Morrison

Police are using CCTV images taken on university and college campuses, sometimes with the collusion of university authorities, to “spy” on student demonstrators as young as 16, it was claimed yesterday.
University lecturers are demanding an independent investigation into the “over zealous” use of surveillance techniques against students during the policing of demonstrations against fees rises and public spending cuts.
A motion tabled for the University and College Union’s (UCU) conference this weekend condemns what it terms attempts to “criminalise protest” through “state surveillance of higher education and further education institutions for elicting intelligence regarding protest activities”.
Cases include the arrest of four students at University College London (UCL) after the university authorities handed over CCTV footage of them chalking the walls of one of its buildings during a student occupation.
In addition, 16 and 17-year-olds from Barnsley College were questioned by police who already knew their names after they had returned to the town following a mass demonstration against fees rises in London.

In the UCL case, Scotland Yard confirmed that two 20-year-old male students had been arrested on 10 May as a result of an investigation into reports of criminal damage to a building. They have both been bailed until next month pending further enquiries.
The UCL said two more students had been arrested three days later. The four were among five targeted for arrest following graffiti damage at the time of the occupation.
A spokeswoman for the university added: “UCL reported the damage… as a police matter. UCL handed over CCTV that identified the persons involved at the time of the damage.”
She said this had been done as part of an attempt to co-operate with a request for personal data from the police – made to the university’s data protection manager.
In the Barnsley case, Dave Gibson, UCU branch secretary at Barnsley College, said he was “alarmed” that 
police who had questioned the students already knew their names without being told who they were.
“It is quite worrying for a 16 or 17-year-old,” he added. “Clearly there was some kind of surveillance going on. From their questions, they had certainly filmed them and had footage of that.”

Victory over AIDS epidemic finally within reach: U.S. researcher

AFP
May 30, 2011

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Thirty years after the AIDS epidemic surfaced, hope of conquering the deadly epidemic has never been greater, according to a longtime US leader in the AIDS fight, Anthony Fauci.

This hope has been spurred by recent advances toward a vaccine and new breakthoughs in treatment and prevention, said Fauci, who has headed the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.

“Over the last one and half years we have had several important advances which when you put them together and combine them are now pointing very strongly to the fact that we can essentially be able to ultimately control and obviously ultimately end the AIDS pandemic,” he told AFP.

Previous discoveries include how male circumcision can reduce by almost 65 percent the risk of transmitting the human immunodeficiency virus, the effectiveness of vaginal microbicides and drug treatments that can prevent an infected pregnant mother from passing the disease to her child.


More recently, two clinical trials have shown just how effective antiretroviral drugs can be in preventing the spread of the incurable disease.

A study that ran from 2007-2009 and was published late last year showed that a combination of these drugs taken orally by uninfected gay men lowered their risk by 44 percent of becoming infected.

That rate rose above 70 percent when the pills were taken regularly, said Fauci who added he has “been in it now literally every day of my life for the last 30 years.”

Full Article Here – http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/05/30/victory-over-aids-epidemic-finally-within-reach-u-s-researcher/

Food prices ‘will double by 2030′, Oxfam warns

BBC News
May 30, 2011

The prices of staple foods will more than double in 20 years unless world leaders take action to reform the global food system, Oxfam has warned.

By 2030, the average cost of key crops will increase by between 120% and 180%, the charity forecasts.
Half of that increase will be caused by climate change, Oxfam predicts, in its report Growing a Better Future.
It calls on world leaders to improve regulation of food markets and invest in a global climate fund.

“The food system must be overhauled if we are to overcome the increasingly pressing challenges of climate change, spiralling food prices and the scarcity of land, water and energy,” said Barbara Stocking, Oxfam’s chief executive.
 
Women and children

In its report, Oxfam highlights four “food insecurity hotspots”, areas which are already struggling to feed their citizens.


“We are sleepwalking towards an avoidable age of crisis – one in seven people go hungry every day despite the fact that the world is capable of feeding everyone”Barbara Stocking Oxfam chief executive
  • in Guatemala, 865,000 people are at risk of food insecurity, due to a lack of state investment in smallholder farmers, who are highly dependent on imported food, the charity says.
  • in India, people spend more than twice the proportion of their income on food than UK residents – paying the equivalent of £10 for a litre of milk and £6 for a kilo of rice.

Full Article Here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-13597657?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Tortured youngster becomes rallying point for Syrians

The Sydney Mourning Herald
May 31, 2011
By Liz Sly

BEIRUT: His head was swollen, purple and disfigured. His body was a mess of welts, cigarette burns and wounds from bullets fired to injure, not kill. His kneecaps had been smashed, his neck broken, his jaw shattered and his penis cut off.

What finally killed him was not clear, but it appeared painfully, shockingly clear that he had suffered terribly during the month he spent in Syrian custody.

Hamza Ali al-Khateeb was only 13 years old.

And since a video portraying the torture inflicted upon him was broadcast on the al-Jazeera television network on Friday, he has rapidly emerged as the new symbol of the protest movement in Syria. His childish features have put a face to the largely faceless and leaderless opposition to the regime of the President, Bashar al-Assad, a regime that has angered the country for nine weeks, reinvigorating a movement that had seemed in danger of drifting.

It is too early to tell whether the boy’s death will trigger the kind of critical mass that brought down the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia and that the Syrian protests have lacked. But it would not be the first time that the suffering of an individual had motivated ordinary people who might not otherwise have taken to the streets to rise against their governments.


The revolt in Tunisia was inspired by a street vendor who set himself on fire after being insulted by a local policewoman. In Egypt the beating death last year of Khaled Said, an Alexandria resident, kindled the opposition movement that eventually led the uprising against the rule of Hosni Mubarak.

Activists believed Hamza will become the Khaled Said of Syria, said Wissam Tarif of the human rights group Insan.

”This boy is already a symbol. It has provoked people, and the protests are increasing.”

Egyptian general admits ‘virginity checks’ conducted on protesters

CNN
May 30, 2011
By Shahira Amin

Cairo (CNN) — A senior Egyptian general admits that “virginity checks” were performed on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous denials by military authorities.

The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report, published weeks after the March 9 protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges and forced to submit to virginity checks.

At that time, Maj. Amr Imam said 17 women had been arrested but denied allegations of torture or “virginity tests.”


But now a senior general who asked not to be identified said the virginity tests were conducted and defended the practice.

“The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine,” the general said. “These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs).”

The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn’t later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.

“We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place,” the general said. “None of them were (virgins).”

This demonstration occurred nearly a month after Egypt’s longtime President Hosni Mubarak stepped down amid a wave of popular and mostly peaceful unrest aimed at his ouster and the institution of democratic reforms.

Afterward, Egypt’s military — which had largely stayed on the sidelines of the revolution — officially took control of the nation’s political apparatus as well, until an agreed-upon constitution and elections.

Mubarak denies ordering shootings

The March 9 protest occurred in Tahrir Square, which became famous over 18 historic and sometimes bloody days and nights of protests that led to Mubarak’s resignation.

But unlike in those previous demonstrations, the Egyptian military targeted the protesters. Soldiers dragged dozens of demonstrators from the square and through the gates of the landmark Egyptian Museum.

Full Article Here – http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/05/30/egypt.virginity.tests/?hpt=T2

FBI’s Counterterrorism Operations Scrutinizing Political Activists

New York Times
May 29, 2011
By COLIN MOYNIHAN and SCOTT SHANE

AUSTIN, Tex. — A fat sheaf of F.B.I. reports meticulously details the surveillance that counterterrorism agents directed at the one-story house in East Austin. For at least three years, they traced the license plates of cars parked out front, recorded the comings and goings of residents and guests and, in one case, speculated about a suspicious flat object spread out across the driveway.

“The content could not be determined from the street,” an agent observing from his car reported one day in 2005. “It had a large number of multi-colored blocks, with figures and/or lettering,” the report said, and “may be a sign that is to be used in an upcoming protest.”

Actually, the item in question was more mundane.

“It was a quilt,” said Scott Crow, marveling over the papers at the dining table of his ramshackle home, where he lives with his wife, a housemate and a backyard menagerie that includes two goats, a dozen chickens and a turkey. “For a kids’ after-school program.”

Mr. Crow, 44, a self-described anarchist and veteran organizer of anticorporate demonstrations, is among dozens of political activists across the country known to have come under scrutiny from the F.B.I.’s increased counterterrorism operations since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


Other targets of bureau surveillance, which has been criticized by civil liberties groups and mildly faulted by the Justice Department’s inspector general, have included antiwar activists in Pittsburgh, animal rights advocates in Virginia and liberal Roman Catholics in Nebraska. When such investigations produce no criminal charges, their methods rarely come to light publicly.

But Mr. Crow, a lanky Texas native who works at a recycling center, is one of several Austin activists who asked the F.B.I. for their files, citing the Freedom of Information Act. The 440 heavily-redacted pages he received, many bearing the rubric “Domestic Terrorism,” provide a revealing window on the efforts of the bureau, backed by other federal, state and local police agencies, to keep an eye on people it deems dangerous.

Full Article Here – http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43208176/ns/us_news-the_new_york_times/

by: Colin Moynihan and Scott Shane

Karzai scolds US military over Afghan civilian deaths

AFP
May 29, 2011
by Sardar Ahmad 

KABUL (AFP) – President Hamid Karzai on Sunday scolded the US military for “arbitrary and unnecessary” missions that kill Afghan civilians, saying it was his last warning on the issue after 14 died in an air strike.

Citing initial reports that 10 children, two women and two men were killed in a strike in the southern province of Helmand on Saturday, Karzai said such operations amounted to the “murdering of Afghanistan’s children and women.”

Local authorities said US Marines called in air support after their base in the Nawzad district of Helmand came under attack from small arms fire.


“During the air strike, two civilian houses were targeted which killed 14 civilians and six others were wounded,” the provincial administration said in a statement, citing the deaths of five girls, seven boys and two women.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it was investigating the allegations.
Karzai’s office strongly condemned the killings and described the air strike as a “great mistake.”

The president “gives his last warning to the US troops and US officials in this regard,” his office said.

“US and NATO troops have been repeatedly told that their arbitrary and unnecessary operations cause the deaths of innocent Afghans and such operations violate human and moral values, but it appears that (we) are not listened to.”

A White House spokesman acknowledged Karzai’s concerns.

Full Article Here – http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110529/ts_afp/afghanistanunrestcivilians