Abramoff Released After 3 Years, New Blackwater Contracts, G-20 Security Measures
Revealing News Articles
June 28, 2010
Below are key excerpts of revealing news articles on the release of convicted US lobbyist Jack Abramoff from prison after just three years, new contracts with Blackwater Corp. approved by the CIA and the State Department despite the Justice Department's criminal case against it, extreme security measures adopted for the Toronto G-20 summit, and more. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. The most important sentences are highlighted. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
Special note: For an intriguing, three-minute ABC News video showing Skull and Bones members conducting a mock murder, click here. You can find an excellent collection of major media video reports on Skull and Bones at this link. Another revealing four-minute CNN report on this secret society is available here. And for a great Jon Stewart comedy act showing how we have been manipulated by presidents around the oil issue, click here.
Abramoff Free After 3-Years in Jail
June 24, 2010, BBC News
Former US lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was jailed on corruption charges in 2006, has landed a job in a kosher pizza restaurant. Mr Abramoff was released into a halfway house in Baltimore two weeks ago after serving more than three years for fraud, corruption and conspiracy. The halfway house arranged Mr Abramoff's new job. Mr Abramoff's crimes include a fraudulent deal to buy casino boats and conspiring to bribe public officials. As a millionaire and lobbyist, his network reached deep into Washington's political establishment, and his investigation sent shockwaves through the city. It also sparked off a wide-ranging public corruption probe. As part of his plea deal, Mr Abramoff provided information to the Justice Department that helped convict a member of Congress for taking bribes. A former Deputy Secretary of the Interior appointed by President George W Bush - J Steven Griles - was the highest level administration official convicted. Mr Abramoff is expected to be released from the halfway house in December.
Note: A petty thief steals three times for a total value of a few thousand dollars and by the "three strikes" law ends up in jail for life. Abramoff successfully corrupts U.S. Senators and Congress members and serve less than four years in jail. Is the US justice system biased towards the rich?
Bracing for G-20 protests, Toronto closes doors
June 24, 2010, San Francisco Chronicle/Bloomberg News
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?
Police powers expanded for G20
June 25, 2010, CBC News
Police forces in charge of security at the G20 summit in Toronto have been granted special powers for the duration of the summit. The new powers took effect [on June 21] and apply along the border of the G20 security fence that encircles a portion of the downtown core. This area – the so-called red zone – includes the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where delegates will meet. Under the new regulations, anyone who comes within five metres of the security area is obliged to give police their name and state the purpose of their visit on request. Anyone who fails to provide identification or explain why they are near the security zone can be searched and arrested. The new powers are designed specifically for the G20, CBC's Colin Butler reported Friday. Ontario's cabinet quietly passed the new rules on June 2 without legislature debate. Civil liberties groups are concerned about the new regulations. Anyone who refuses to identify themselves or refuses to provide a reason for their visit can be fined up to $500 and face up to two months in jail. The regulation also says that if someone has a dispute with an officer and it goes to court "the police officer's statement under oath is considered conclusive evidence under the act."
CIA hires Xe, formerly Blackwater, to guard facilities in Afghanistan, elsewhere
June 24, 2010, Washington Post
The CIA has hired Xe Services, the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, to guard its facilities in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The previously undisclosed CIA contract is worth about $100 million. The revelation comes only a day after members of a federal commission investigating war-zone contractors blasted the State Department for granting Xe a new $120 million contract to guard U.S. consulates under construction in Afghanistan. CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano stopped short of confirming the contract, saying only that Xe personnel would not be involved in operations. The firm, based in Moyock, N.C., has been fighting off prosecution and lawsuits since a September 2007 incident in Baghdad, when its guards opened fire in a city square, allegedly killing 17 unarmed civilians and wounding 24. Two weeks ago, [CEO Erik] Prince announced that he was putting the company on the block. A spokeswoman said "a number of firms" are interested in buying but declined to elaborate.
Note: For lots more on government corruption from reliable sources, click here.
Blackwater Firm Gets $120M U.S. Gov't Contract
June 18, 2010, CBS News
CBS News has learned in an exclusive report that the State Department has awarded a part of what was formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide a contract worth more than $120 million for providing security services in Afghanistan. Private security firm U.S. Training Center, a business unit of the Moyock, N.C.-based Blackwater, now called Xe Services, was awarded the contract [on June 18], a State Department spokeswoman said. Under the contract, U.S. Training Center will provide "protective security services" at the new U.S. consulates in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, the spokeswoman said. The firm can begin work "immediately" and has to start within two months. The contract lasts a year but can be extended twice for three months at a time to last a maximum of 18 months. The awarding of the contract comes just more than four months after the government of Iraq ordered hundreds of Blackwater-linked security guards to leave the country within seven days or face possible arrest. The Justice Department is also trying to prosecute a case against five Blackwater guards who had opened fire on a crowded Baghdad street in 2007. The Justice Department's case or Blackwater's expulsion from Iraq didn't block U.S. Training Center from bidding on the multi-million dollar contract, the State Department spokeswoman said.
WikiLeaks founder drops 'mass spying' hint
June 22, 2010, ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has given his strongest indication yet about the next big leak from his whistleblower organisation. In an interview with the ABC's Foreign Correspondent, Mr Assange said cryptically of WikiLeaks' current project: "I can give an analogy. If there had been mass spying that had affected many, many people and organisations and the details of that mass spying were released then that is something that would reveal that the interests of many people had been abused." He agreed it would be of the "calibre" of publishing information about the way the top secret Echelon system - the US-UK electronic spying network which eavesdrops on worldwide communications traffic - had been used. Mr Assange also confirmed that WikiLeaks has a copy of a video showing a US military bombing of a western Afghan township which killed dozens of people, including children. During the course of the past month, Mr Assange has been talking to [ABC's] Foreign Correspondent for [an upcoming] program examining the efficacy of the WikiLeaks model. "What we want to create is a system where there is guaranteed free press across the world, the entire world, that every individual in the world has the ability to publish materials that is meaningful," he said.
Note: For more on government surveillance from major media sources, click here.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange breaks cover but will avoid America
June 21, 2010, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
The elusive founder of WikiLeaks, who is at the centre of a potential US national security sensation, has surfaced from almost a month in hiding to tell the Guardian he does not fear for his safety but is on permanent alert. Julian Assange, a renowned Australian hacker who founded the electronic whistleblowers' platform WikiLeaks, vanished when a young US intelligence analyst in Baghdad was arrested. The analyst, Bradley Manning, had bragged he had sent 260,000 incendiary US state department cables on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks. The prospect of the cache of classified intelligence on the US conduct of the two wars being put online is a nightmare for Washington. The sensitivity of the information has generated media reports that Assange is the target of a US manhunt. Assange told the Guardian in Brussels, "Politically it would be a great error for them to act. I feel perfectly safe ... but I have been advised by my lawyers not to travel to the US during this period." Assange appeared in public in Brussels for the first time in almost a month to speak at a seminar on freedom of information at the European parliament.
Fears for life of Wikileaks founder
June 18, 2010, ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Julian Assange, the Australian-born founder of Wikileaks, is said to be under threat with reports that the site has hundreds of thousands of classified cables containing explosive revelations. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked Pentagon papers in the 1970s showing government deceit over the Vietnam War, says he believes Mr Assange has reason to keep his whereabouts secret. "I think he would not be safe, even physically, entirely wherever he is. We have ... for the first time ever ... in any democratic country ... a president who has announced that he feels he has the right to use special operations operatives against anyone abroad that he thinks is associated with terrorism." As far fetched as Mr Ellsberg's claim sounds, the national president of Whistleblowers Australia, Peter Bennett, agrees Mr Assange's life may be at risk. "There is a lot of money to be made from wars. There is a lot of people who will become very, very wealthy through the course of this Afghan war," he said. "To stop anybody raising questions about its conduct would put those profits at risk and profit is a high motivation to stop somebody interfering with those profits. There is a serious chance that his wellbeing could be at risk."
Note: For more on the ever-increasing governmental threats to civil liberties, click here.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has passport confiscated
May 17, 2010, The Times (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
The Australian founder of the whistleblower website Wikileaks had his passport confiscated by police when he arrived in Melbourne last week. Julian Assange, who does not have an official home base and travels every six weeks, [said] that immigration officials had said his passport was going to be cancelled because it was looking worn. However he then received a letter from the Australian Communication Minister Steven Conroy's office stating that the recent disclosure on Wikileaks of a blacklist of websites the Australian government is preparing to ban had been referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP). Last year Wikileaks published a confidential list of websites that the Australian government is preparing to ban under a proposed internet filter – which in turn caused the whistleblower site to be placed on that list. Mr Assange, 37, told The Age newspaper that half an hour after his passport was returned to him an AFP officer searched one of his bags and questioned him about a previous criminal record for computer hacking offences when he was a teenager. He was then told his passport status was classified as "normal" on the immigration database. In 1991 Mr Assange, described by Wikileaks as "Australia's most famous ethical computer hacker", was charged with 30 offences over the alleged hacking of police, Telco's and US military computers. He admitted to 24 charges and was fined.
Gulf oil spill worsens -- but what about the safety of gas fracking?
June 18, 2010, Los Angeles Times
Imagine a siege of hydrocarbons spewing from deep below ground, polluting water and air, sickening animals and threatening the health of unsuspecting Americans. And no one knows how long it will last. No, we're not talking about BP's gulf oil spill. We're talking about hydraulic fracturing of natural gas deposits. Fracking, as the practice is also known, may be coming to a drinking well or a water system near you. It involves blasting water, sand and chemicals, many of them toxic, into underground rock to extract oil or gas. "Gasland," a compelling documentary on HBO ..., traces hydraulic fracturing across 34 states from California to Louisiana to Pennsylvania. The exposé by filmmaker Josh Fox, alternately chilling and darkly humorous, won the 2010 Sundance Film Festival's special jury prize for documentary. It details how former Vice President Dick Cheney, in partnership with the energy industry and drilling companies such as his former employer, Halliburton Corp., successfully pressured Congress in 2005 to exempt fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws. Each well requires the high-pressure injection of a cocktail of nearly 600 chemicals, including known carcinogens and neurotoxins, diluted in 1 million to 7 million gallons of water. Some 450,000 wells have been drilled nationwide.
Gulf oil spill: A hole in the world
June 19, 2010, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
The Deepwater Horizon disaster is not just an industrial accident – it is a violent wound inflicted on the Earth itself. It lays bare the hubris at the heart of capitalism. This Gulf coast crisis is about many things – corruption, deregulation, the addiction to fossil fuels. But underneath it all, it's about this: our culture's excruciatingly dangerous claim to have such complete understanding and command over nature that we can radically manipulate and re-engineer it with minimal risk to the natural systems that sustain us. But as the BP disaster has revealed, nature is always more unpredictable than the most sophisticated mathematical and geological models imagine. In the arc of human history, the notion that nature is a machine for us to re-engineer at will is a relatively recent conceit. In her ground-breaking 1980 book The Death of Nature, the environmental historian Carolyn Merchant reminded readers that up until the 1600s, the Earth was alive. Europeans – like indigenous people the world over – believed the planet to be a living organism, full of life-giving powers but also wrathful tempers. There were, for this reason, strong taboos against actions that would deform and desecrate "the mother", including mining. [But] with nature now cast as a machine, devoid of mystery or divinity, its component parts [can] be dammed, extracted and remade with impunity.
Note: The author of this insightful essay, Naomi Klein, is the author of The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism. For illuminating insights into the nature of reality and the reality of nature, click here.
BP and the Axis of Evil
June 19, 2010, BBC Blogs
BP is accused of destroying the wildlife and coastline of America, but if you look back into history you find that BP did something even worse to America. They gave the world Ayatollah Khomeini. Back in 1951 the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company - which would later become BP - and its principal owner the British government, conspired to destroy democracy and install a western-controlled regime in Iran. The resulting anger and the repression that followed was one of the principal causes of the Iranian revolution in 1978/79 - out of which came the Islamist regime of Ayatollah Khomeini. And what's more, BP and the British government were so arrogant and bumblingly inept at handling the crisis that they had to persuade the Americans help them. They did this by pretending there was a Communist threat to Iran. The American government, led by President Eisenhower, believed them and the CIA were instructed to engineer a coup which removed the Iranian prime minister Mohamed Mossadegh. The CIA, led by Allen Dulles, ... sent the CIA's top Middle East agen, Kermit Roosevelt, to run Operation Ajax. The plan, drawn up by the British and the Americans, was to bribe the street gangs of Tehran to create chaos, and then install an army general, General Zahedi, as prime minister.
Monsanto GM seed ban is overturned by US Supreme Court
June 21, 2010, BBC News
The bio-tech company Monsanto can sell genetically modified seeds before safety tests on them are completed, the US Supreme Court has ruled. A lower court had barred the sale of the modified alfalfa seeds until an environmental impact study could be carried out. But seven of the nine Supreme Court Justices decided that ruling was unconstitutional. The seed is modified to be resistant to Monsanto's brand of weedkiller. The US is the world's largest producer of alfalfa, a grass-like plant used as animal feed. It is the fourth most valuable crop grown in the country. Environmentalists had argued that there might be a risk of cross-pollination between genetically modified plants and neighbouring crops. They also argued over-use of the company's weedkiller Roundup, the chemical treatment the alfalfa is modified to be resistant to, could cause pollution of ground water and lead to resistant "super-weeds".
Note: For a powerful summary of the dangers of genetically-modified organisms, click here.
End Is Seen to Free Checking
June 16, 2010, Wall Street Journal
Bank of America Corp. and other banks are preparing new fees on basic banking services as they try to replace revenue lost to regulatory rules, in a push that is expected to spell an end to free checking accounts for many Americans. Free checking accounts, which have been widely available for more than a decade, have been a boon to middle-class consumers and attracted low-income customers to the banking system for the first time. Customers will likely be required to pay new monthly maintenance fees on the most basic accounts that don't generate a lot of activity. To avoid a fee, customers will have to maintain certain account balances or frequently use other banking services, such as credit and debit cards, automated teller machines and online accounts. Some consumer advocates warn the new fees will whack consumers who now manage their bank accounts to avoid such charges. The transformation of checking accounts comes at a time when banks are bouncing back from the steepest financial losses in a generation and are facing new regulations. To accelerate that recovery and recoup losses from new banking rules, financial institutions are increasingly leaning on customers who don't now generate enough revenue for the bank.
Note: Why hasn't the federal government protected consumers from this sort of response by the banking industry to new regulations imposed after the massive taxpayer bailout of these failing corporations?
Sea Shepherd's Watson on Interpol's most wanted
June 26, 2010, ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Interpol has placed the head of anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, Paul Watson, on its international wanted list. Interpol has issued a so-called blue notice, asking national police forces to pass on information about Mr Watson's whereabouts and activities. The Sea Shepherd leader has harassed the Japanese whaling fleet for the past few years, limiting the number of whales caught for so-called scientific research. Mr Watson, who is in the United States, says the notice does not make any sense. "It's a blue notice which means it's not an arrest warrant, it's just so they can keep tabs on me. But they needn't have wasted their time, they could have just followed our website," he said. "One thing that it does mean to me is that we're certainly getting to them. We cut their kill quotas in half and they're really desperate that we not go back down there this year. But I can tell them we'll certainly be back down in the Southern Ocean harassing them again in December."
Note: For lots more on whales and other marine mammals, and on their defenders from slaughter and abuse, click here.
Watching Whales Watching Us
July 12, 2009, New York Times
Scientists have now documented behaviors like tool use and cooperative hunting strategies among whales. Orcas, or killer whales, have been found to mourn their own dead. Just three years ago, researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York discovered, in the brains of a number of whale species, highly specialized neurons that are linked to, among other things, the use of language and were once thought to be the exclusive property of humans and a few other primates. Indeed, marine biologists are now revealing not only the dizzying variety of vocalizations among a number of whale species but also complex societal structures and cultures. Whales, we now know, teach and learn. They scheme. They cooperate, and they grieve. They recognize themselves and their friends. They know and fight back against their enemies. And perhaps most stunningly, given all of our transgressions against them, they may even, in certain circumstances, have learned to trust us. For all of their inherent elusiveness, the gray whales of Baja baffle scientists for the opposite reason: They can't seem to get enough of us humans. The question of why present-day gray-whale mothers, some of whom still bear harpoon scars, would take to seeking us out and gently shepherding their young into our arms is a mystery that now captivates whale researchers and watchers alike.
Note: For many important reports from reliable sources on the amazing capabilities of marine mammals, as well as serious threats to their well-being and survival from human activities, click here.
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