News ArticlesExcerpts of Key News Articles in Major Media
America is different from the rest of the world in lots of ways, many of them good. One of the bad ones is its willingness to lock up its citizens. One American adult in 100 festers behind bars (with the rate rising to one in nine for young black men). Its imprisoned population, at 2.3m, exceeds that of 15 of its states. No other rich country is nearly as punitive as the Land of the Free. The rate of incarceration is a fifth of America’s level in Britain, a ninth in Germany and a twelfth in Japan. America’s incarceration rate has quadrupled since 1970. Similar things have happened elsewhere. The incarceration rate in Britain has more than doubled, and that in Japan increased by half, over the period. But the trend has been sharper in America than in most of the rich world, and the disparity has grown. It is explained neither by a difference in criminality (the English are slightly more criminal than Americans, though less murderous), nor by the success of the policy: America’s violent-crime rate is higher than it was 40 years ago. Many states have mandatory minimum sentences, which remove judges’ discretion to show mercy, even when the circumstances of a case cry out for it. “Three strikes” laws, which were at first used to put away persistently violent criminals for life, have in several states been applied to lesser offenders.
Note: For a recent report on the size of the US prison population in comparison with other countries, click here.
An Iranian scientist who says he was abducted and taken to the United States by the CIA returned to Tehran yesterday to a hero's welcome and claimed that he had been pressured into lying about his country's nuclear programme. Shahram Amiri said that he was on the hajj pilgrimage when he was seized at gunpoint in the city of Medina, drugged and taken to the US, where he says Israel was involved in his interrogation. In the US, officials were reported to have admitted that Mr Amiri was paid more than $5m (Ł3.2m) by the CIA for information about Iran's nuclear ambitions. The offer of a large bribe is reportedly part of a special US programme to get Iranian nuclear scientists to defect. "Americans wanted me to say that I defected to America of my own will, to use me for revealing some false information about Iran's nuclear work," Mr Amiri said at Tehran airport. "I was under intensive psychological pressure by [the] CIA... the main aim of this abduction was to stage a new political and psychological game against Iran." At his press conference at Tehran airport, Mr Amiri stressed that he had acted under compulsion. "Israeli agents were present at some of my interrogation sessions and I was threatened to be handed over to Israel if I refused to cooperate with Americans," he said. He says he was offered $50m to stay in the US.
Note: For key reports on CIA kidnappings and other methods employed in the bogus "global war on terror", click here.
Missing from almost all discussion of America’s dizzying rate of unemployment is the brute fact that hourly wages of people with jobs have been dropping, adjusted for inflation. Average weekly earnings rose a bit this spring only because the typical worker put in more hours, but June’s decline in average hours pushed weekly paychecks down at an annualized rate of 4.5 percent. In other words, Americans are keeping their jobs or finding new ones only by accepting lower wages. Meanwhile, a much smaller group of Americans’ earnings are back in the stratosphere: Wall Street traders and executives, hedge-fund and private-equity fund managers, and top corporate executives. As hiring has picked up on the Street, fat salaries are reappearing. We’re back to the same ominous trend as before the Great Recession: a larger and larger share of total income going to the very top while the vast middle class continues to lose ground. And as long as this trend continues, we can’t get out of the shadow of the Great Recession. When most of the gains from economic growth go to a small sliver of Americans at the top, the rest don’t have enough purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable of producing.
Note: The author of this analysis, Robert Reich, is a former U.S. Secretary of Labor. For highly informative graphs showing the details of rising wealth inequality in the United States, click here.
A senior US general once criticised for saying it was "fun to shoot some people" has been picked to take over US Central Command, leading the military command running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. General James Mattis, the current head of the US Joint Forces Command ... previously led troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Centcom ... covers 20 countries and stretches from Egypt across the Middle East and into south and central Asia. Gen Mattis was reprimanded [in 2005] by the Marine Corps for telling a conference in San Diego, California: "It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up front with you, I like brawling." During a discussion panel he said: "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."
Note: For reports from reliable sources which reveal the realities of the US wars of aggression in the Middle East and Central Asia, click here.
Just when you thought the damage BP could cause was limited to beaches, marshes, oceans, people's livelihoods, birds and marine life, there's more. BP's favorite dispersant Corexit 9500 is being sprayed at the oil gusher on the ocean floor. Corexit is also being air sprayed across hundreds of miles of oil slicks all across the gulf. There have been widespread reports of oil cleanup crews reporting various injuries including respiratory distress, dizziness and headaches. Corexit 9500 is a solvent originally developed by Exxon. Corexit is four times more toxic than oil (oil is toxic at 11 ppm (parts per million), Corexit 9500 at only 2.61ppm). In a report written by Anita George-Ares and James R. Clark for Exxon Biomedical Sciences, Inc. titled "Acute Aquatic Toxicity of Three Corexit Products: An Overview," Corexit 9500 was found to be one of the most toxic dispersal agents ever developed. According to the Clark and George-Ares report, Corexit mixed with the higher gulf coast water temperatures becomes even more toxic. The UK's Marine Management Organization ... banned Corexit ... from a list of approved treatments for oil spills in the U.K. more than a decade ago. The simple question I ask is: If the UK bans Corexit ... why the hell are we using it on American waters?
*Lulu Maxwell, 17, Grade 12, Rosedale Heights: Maxwell and a friend were hanging around near Queen and Dufferin Sts. at a convergence centre for protesters on Sunday afternoon when police started making arrests. “My friend was blowing bubbles and I was scribbling peace signs on the sidewalk.” Within minutes, her friend was grabbed and Lulu was put up against a wall. Her backpack was searched and Lulu says an officer said she could be charged with possession of dangerous weapons “because I had eyewash solution in my backpack.” She was taken to the detention centre and almost 12 hours after her arrest was allowed to call her parents. She was released, without charges being laid, at 5 a. m. *Erin Boynton, 24, London, Ont. She was arrested at The Esplanade early Sunday morning after police boxed dozens of protesters in. “I was with a protest marching peacefully down Yonge from Dundas Square,” she said. “When the cops came at us, many people scattered and those who were left in front of the (Novotel) got arrested.” She said police came from all sides and “squished us in. They didn’t give us a warning to leave…. just announced that we are arresting all of you.” She said a lot of people at the detention centre were innocent bystanders. “The police violated all our rights . . . there was police brutality. Quite frankly, it was quite disgusting.” Boynton wasn’t charged.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on mounting threats to civil liberties, click here.
It emerged in April that Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, a Colombian who for 10 years was in charge of the Vatican department that supervises the clergy, wrote in 2001 with gushing approval to the Bishop of Bayeux, who went to jail rather than give French authorities information about a priest who had raped a minor. "I congratulate you for not turning in a priest to the civil administration," he wrote. "I am delighted to have a colleague ... who ... has preferred prison to turning in his son-priest." The Vatican confirmed the authenticity of the letter, which had been posted on a French website. But then Castrillon Hoyos himself added a crucial detail. In a radio interview he said the letter was the outcome of a high-level meeting of cardinals at which [Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict] had been present. If the Pope wants to purge paedophilia from the church he must confront the compromised figures within the Curia and dismiss them. Pope Benedict XVI would like the Catholic Church to be very different from the one that ballooned out of all proportion under John Paul, purer, more beautiful, more austere. But far from moulding the church in his own image, he now risks having his own heritage fatally compromised.
Note: For more on sex crimes and the Vatican, click here.
The host city for this weekend's Group of 20 summit is preparing for an invasion of world leaders, police and protesters by shutting its doors. The Toronto Blue Jays baseball team is leaving town, the Royal Alexandra Theatre is closing for the first time in more than a century, and thousands of bankers and money managers such as David Cockfield are working from home. "People coming to cover the G-20 are going to find Toronto just empty, with wind blowing through the downtown canyons, asking 'Where are all the people?' " said Cockfield, a portfolio manager at MacNicol & Associates Asset Management. A 12-block section of Toronto's financial district already is surrounded by 10-foot-high chain-link fences and concrete barriers, part of the largest security operation ever in Canada with 20,000 police and security guards.
Note: What does it say about world government when a whole city has to close doors simply because the world's leaders are meeting there?
Despite President Barack Obama's promises of better safeguards for offshore drilling, federal regulators continue to approve plans for oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico with minimal or no environmental analysis. The Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service has signed off on at least five new offshore drilling projects since June 2, when the agency's acting director announced tougher safety regulations for drilling in the Gulf, a McClatchy review of public records has discovered. Three of the projects were approved with waivers exempting them from detailed studies of their environmental impact â€” the same waiver the MMS granted to BP for the ill-fated well that's been fouling the Gulf with crude for two months. Environmental groups [say] the administration is allowing oil companies to proceed with drilling plans that may be just as flawed as BP's, which concluded that a major spill was "unlikely" and that the company was equipped to manage even the worst-case blowout. "It's just outrageous," said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation organization. "The whole world is screaming and ... they're just continuing to move this stuff through the system."
Note: For abundant reports from reliable sources on government corruption, click here.
The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks says it plans to release a secret military video of one of the deadliest US air strikes in Afghanistan in which scores of children are believed to have been killed. It said it fears it is under attack after the US authorities said they were searching for the site's founder, Julian Assange, following the arrest of a US soldier accused of leaking the Afghanistan video and another of a US attack in Baghdad in which civilians were killed. It says it is still working to prepare the film of the bombing of the Afghan village of Garani in May 2009. The video could prove to be extremely embarrassing to the US military. The US ... used weapons that create casualties over a wide area, including one-tonne bombs and others that burst in the air. But two US military officials told a newspaper last year that no one checked to see whether there were women and children in the buildings. In an email to supporters, Assange said WikiLeaks has the Garani video and "a lot of other material that exposes human rights abuses by the US government". In his email, Assange also calls on supporters to protect the website from "attack" by the authorities following the detention of a US soldier, Bradley Manning, who was arrested in Iraq after admitting to a former hacker that he leaked the Garani and Baghdad videos to WikiLeaks.
Note: For lots more on government secrecy from major media sources, click here.
Julian Assange, the Australian-born face of the [whistleblowers' website] WikiLeaks, is in hiding overseas after the US military arrested one of its own soldiers, Bradley Manning, and accused him of leaking a a secret video of a US Army helicopter gunning down civilians in Iraq in 2007. The video was released on Wikileaks this year, and the US is now desperate to find Mr Assange before he leaks thousands of hugely embarrassing state diplomatic cables, which are believed to discuss the Middle East, its governments and leaders. Mr Assange, 38, is an enigmatic figure who moves frequently between countries and has bases in Iceland, Kenya, Australia and elsewhere. He was due to speak at a conference in Las Vegas on [June 11] but cancelled shortly before he was due to appear. At the same time [a US website] published an article claiming that Pentagon investigators were engaged in a "manhunt" for Mr Assange. There have even been suggestions that Mr Assange may be in physical danger. Daniel Ellsberg, who famously leaked a top secret US history of the Vietnam War dubbed the Pentagon Papers at the height of that war, told US television he had spoken to Mr Assange last week. "He â€¦ understood that it was not safe for him to come to this country," Mr Ellsberg said.
Note: For more of Daniel Ellsberg's assessment of the personal dangers to Assange from the Pentagon's manhunt for him, click here.
Saudi Arabia has conducted tests to stand down its air defences to enable Israeli jets to make a bombing raid on Iranâ€™s nuclear facilities, The Times can reveal. Defence sources in the Gulf say that Riyadh has agreed to allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance for a bombing run on Iran. â€śThe Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way,â€ť said a US defence source in the area. â€śThis has all been done with the agreement of the [US] State Department.â€ť Sources in Saudi Arabia say it is common knowledge within defence circles in the kingdom that an arrangement is in place if Israel decides to launch the raid. â€śWe all know this. We will let them [the Israelis] through and see nothing,â€ť said one. The targets lie as far as 1,400 miles (2,250km) from Israel; the outer limits of their bombersâ€™ range, even with aerial refuelling. An open corridor across northern Saudi Arabia would significantly shorten the distance. An airstrike would involve multiple waves of bombers, possibly crossing Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Passing over Iraq would require at least tacit agreement to the raid from Washington.
The Daily Beast reports that Pentagon investigators are trying to track down Julian Assange, the elusive Australian-born founder of WikiLeaks, who they believe is preparing to publish several years of State Department cables allegedly passed by the 22-year-old Manning, now being detained in Kuwait. The cables contain "information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq," and they could do "serious damage to national security" if made public, government officials told the Beast. But even if they find him, it's not clear what they could do to stop publication. Daniel Ellsberg says Assange "is in danger." Meanwhile, Wired's Threat Level blog, which broke the Manning story, is reporting that Assange ... is arranging Manning's legal defense and says Manning is no spy. Assange, who first gained notoriety as a computer hacker, canceled an appearance today at an International Reporters and Editors conference in Las Vegas.
Note: For more of Daniel Ellsberg's assessment of the personal dangers to Assange from the Pentagon's manhunt for him, click here.
Tony Hayward cashed in about a third of his holding in the company one month before a well on the Deepwater Horizon rig burst, causing an environmental disaster. Mr Hayward, whose pay package is ÂŁ4 million a year, then paid off the mortgage on his familyâ€™s mansion in Kent, which is estimated to be valued at more than ÂŁ1.2 million. His decision ... means he avoided losing more than ÂŁ423,000 when BPâ€™s share price plunged after the oil spill began six weeks ago. Since he disposed of 223,288 shares on March 17, the companyâ€™s share price has fallen by 30 per cent. About ÂŁ40 billion has been wiped off its total value. The spill, which has still not been stemmed, has caused a serious environmental crisis and is estimated to cost BP up to ÂŁ40 billion to clean up. Mr Hayward, whose position is thought to be under threat, risked further fury by continuing plans to pay out a dividend to investors next month.
Images and reports of oil-drenched wildlife that's dead or slowly dying are starting to emerge. At least one cleanup worker alleges that BP is trying to keep such disturbing pictures out of the public eye. CBS News has gut-wrenching video of oil-covered birds in distress, including the brown pelican, Louisiana's state bird, which for many years was on the Endangered Species List. An unidentified cleanup worker took a New York Daily News reporter on a clandestine tour of the hidden wildlife carnage in Louisiana, accusing the BP of keeping the media at bay. "There is a lot of coverup for BP. They specifically informed us that they don't want these pictures of the dead animals. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence. It's important to me that people know the truth about what's going on here," the contractor said. "The things I've seen: They just aren't right. All the life out here is just full of oil. When you see some of the things I've seen, it would make you sick," the contractor said. "No living creature should endure that kind of suffering." More oil-soaked birds arrived at cleaning stations today, as Louisiana officials continued to patrol the marshes and beaches.
The thing about the Bilderberg group’s top secret meetings: you never know quite what is going on behind the police checkpoints. Across the world, secretaries to the rich and the powerful have blocked out the next three days in their bosses’ calendars for their annual gathering, this time at the Dolce in Sitges, one of Spain’s most exclusive resorts. Normally, every minute of their working lives is accounted for but, each year, a couple of hundred of the world’s financial elite and the more business-friendly members of the political class disappear from view. It is all terribly confidential — breathe a word about it and you’re out of the club — but the Bilderberg watcher Daniel Estulin claims to have a copy of the agenda. The big question this time around is whether the euro will survive. “They are afraid that the countries in trouble will leave and the euro will fall apart,” said Mr Estulin. The Bilderbergers are nervous that the erosion of the euro could nudge the world back into recession while public services cuts could trigger unrest and radicalise the political climate.
Despite the global financial crisis, world military spending almost doubled in the past decade to reach $1.53 trillion in 2009, a Swedish think-tank said Wednesday. In its 2010 yearbook, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, said that spending between 2008 and 2009 grew 5.9 percent. The United States remains the biggest spender, accounting for some 54 percent of the increase, the report said. China, which became the second biggest military spender in 2008, retained that position last year. Data also showed that Asia and Oceania are increasing their military expenditures the fastest. The global financial turmoil had little effect on governments upgrading their armed forces, even in countries whose economies were hit the hardest, SIPRI spokesman Sam Perlo-Freeman said. Perlo-Freeman, who heads the think-tank's military-expenditure project [commented] "For major or intermediate powers ďż˝ such as the USA, China, Russia, India and Brazil ďż˝ military spending represents a long-term strategic choice, which they are willing to make even in hard economic times."
Note: Very few major media picked up this eye-opening article. With all of the threatened budget cuts around the world, why is no one talking about the fact that military spending has literally doubled in the last 10 years? Could it be that those who own the media don't want you to know this information? For a powerful essay by a top US general revealing the deeper causes of war and military spending, click here.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused headlines around the world, yet the people who live in the Niger delta have had to live with environmental catastrophes for decades. In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta's network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of a ... disaster which ... has made headlines round the world. By contrast, little information has emerged about the damage inflicted on the Niger delta. Yet the destruction there provides us with a far more accurate picture of the price we have to pay for drilling oil today. With 606 oilfields, the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports and is the world capital of oil pollution. Life expectancy in its rural communities, half of which have no access to clean water, has fallen to little more than 40 years over the past two generations. Locals blame the oil that pollutes their land and can scarcely believe the contrast with the steps taken by BP and the US government to try to stop the Gulf oil leak and to protect the Louisiana shoreline from pollution. "If this Gulf accident had happened in Nigeria, neither the government nor the company would have paid much attention," said the writer Ben Ikari, a member of the Ogoni people. "This kind of spill happens all the time in the delta."
Prolonged exposure to crude oil and chemical dispersants is a public health danger, environmental scientists warned [on May 27]. With no immediate end in sight, there were growing concerns over the effects on public health of a prolonged exposure to the oil as well as to the more than 3,640,000 litres (800,000 gallons) of chemical dispersants sprayed on the slick. Environmentalists and fishing groups in Louisiana say prolonged exposure to the oil, in the form of tiny airborne particles as well as dispersants, could be wreaking devastating damage on public health. They also accuse BP of threatening to sack workers who try to turn up for clean-up duty wearing protective respirators, and the Obama administration of refusing to release results of air and water quality tests that would show the impact of crude oil and dispersants on the environment. Wilma Subra, a chemist who has served as a consultant to the Environmental Protection Agency, said "Every time the wind blows from the south-east to the shore, people are being made sick. It causes severe headaches, nausea, respiratory problems, burning eyes and sore throats." Long-term health effects include neurological disorders and cancer. Subra said there was even greater concern for those recruited to lay booms and skim crude off the water, since they were in closer proximity to the oil and the chemical dispersants. Clint Guidry, of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, has accused BP of threatening to sack workers who turn up wearing respirators.
Protesters marching at the G20 summit next month may be greeted with ear-splitting “sound cannons,” the latest Toronto police tool for quelling unruly crowds. Toronto police have purchased four long-range acoustic devices (LRAD) — often referred to as sound guns or sound cannons — for the upcoming June 26-27 summit. Purchased this month, the LRADs will become a permanent fixture in Toronto law enforcement, said police spokesperson Const. Wendy Drummond. “They were purchased as part of the G20 budget process,” Drummond said. “It’s definitely going to be beneficial for us, not only in the G20 but in any future large gatherings.” But critics say they are really non-lethal weapons and infringe upon protester rights. LRADs can emit ear-blasting sounds so high in frequency they transcend normal thresholds of pain. LRADs are being increasingly employed as a crowd-control device and at last year’s G20 summit in Pittsburgh, police used them on protesters before deploying tear gas and stun grenades. The acoustical devices can also be pointed at specific targets, transmitting a “laser” of sound that is less aggravating for anyone standing outside its beam.
Note: This is the sort of thing on which the $1 billion in security preparations for the upcoming G8 and G20 meetings is being spent. For revealing reports from reliable sources on the grave risks posed by so called "non-lethal" weapons, click here.
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