In an effort to gin up a bit of publicity for its annual choice for “Person of the Year,” Time has released its list of ten finalists. They include Pope Francis, President Obama, Jeff Bezos, Miley Cyrus, Ted Cruz, and two Middle Eastern leaders: Bashar al-Assad, the embattled President of Syria, and Hassan Rouhani, the new President of Iran. Of these, Pope Francis is by far the strongest candidate, but even the radical new Pontiff can’t compete with another troublemaker on the list: Edward Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who is currently residing somewhere in Russia as the guest of Vladimir Putin, Time’s 2007 honoree.
According to Time, its award, which will be bestowed on Wednesday, goes to the person who, in the opinion of the magazine’s editors, had the most influence on the news. By this metric, it’s no contest. In downloading thousands of files from the computers of the electronic spying agency and handing them over to journalists like Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Barton Gellman, Snowden unleashed a torrent of news stories that began in May, when the Guardian and the Washington Post published a series of articles about the N.S.A.’s surveillance activities. Seven months later, the gusher is still open. Just last week, we learned that the agency is tracking the whereabouts of hundreds of millions of cell phones, gathering nearly five billion records a day.
It’s not just here in the United States. Snowden’s revelations are still causing ruptures and generating headlines all around the world, including in Brazil, which has just said that it wants to question Snowden about revelations that the U.S. agency intercepted the communications of President Dilma Rousseff and her aides; in Germany, where the N.S.A. reportedly tappedChancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone; and in Australia, where the government was embarrassed by the revelation that it had been spying on the President of neighboring Indonesia. And there are almost certainly more stories to come. Last week, Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, said that his paper has so far published only one per cent of the files that it received from Snowden.
President Barack Obama campaigned on a pledge of expanded government transparency, yet his administration has charged more Americans with violating the Espionage Act by leaking classified information than all previous administrations combined.
Eight Americans have faced charges since 2008 under the nearly 100-year-old act.
“Leaks related to national security can put people at risk,” Obama said earlier this year. “I make no apologies and I don’t think the American people will expect me as commander in chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or get them killed.”
Here’s a look at the people charged during Obama’s administration with leaking information under the Espionage Act:
The Obama administration’s pro-corporate Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agenda appears to have missed a deadline.
Ministers and delegates representing 12 nations announced Tuesday they have failed to meet the end-of-year goal of clinching the TPP trade deal after four days of negotiations in Singapore ended without an agreement.
The statement immediately follows a Wikileaks release, previously reported by Common Dreams, exposing near zero support for a drastic pro-corporate agenda pushed in the TPP by the Obama administration, including demands for NAFTA-style secret corporate tribunals, limits to bank regulation, and conditions that would increase the cost of life-saving medicines.
Hitler used the 1933 burning of the Reichstag (Parliament) building by a deranged Dutchman to declare a “war on terrorism,” establish his legitimacy as a leader (even though he hadn’t won a majority in the previous election).
“You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history,” he proclaimed, standing in front of the burned-out building, surrounded by national media. “This fire,” he said, his voice trembling with emotion, “is the beginning.” He used the occasion – “a sign from God,” he called it – to declare an all-out war on terrorism and its ideological sponsors, a people, he said, who traced their origins to the Middle East and found motivation for their “evil” deeds in their religion.
Two weeks later, the first prison for terrorists was built in Oranianberg, holding the first suspected allies of the infamous terrorist. In a national outburst of patriotism, the nation’s flag was everywhere, even printed in newspapers suitable for display.
Within four weeks of the terrorist attack, the nation’s now-popular leader had pushed through legislation, in the name of combating terrorism and fighting the philosophy he said spawned it, that suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy, and habeas corpus. Police could now intercept mail and wiretap phones; suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without specific charges and without access to their lawyers; police could sneak into people’s homes without warrants if the cases involved terrorism.
On a lighter note: Hipsters condemn toppling of Lenin statue
- Protests Turn Increasingly Combustible as Ukraine President Announces Talks
- Ukraine Sends Interior Troops to Kiev
- Riot Cops Break Up Ukraine Protest Camps
- German MEP: ’Ukraine should vote in referendum to decide fate with EU’
- Behind Scenes, Ukraine’s Rich and Powerful Battle Over the Future
- Putin spokesman: customs union not discussed
- Ukraine opposition: no talks unless govt fired
- Occupy Kiev City Hall: Ukrainian protesters find refuge in city offices
- Ukrainians’ Discontent Runs Deep
- Ukraine protesters vow to stay on streets despite police threat
- Former presidents back mass protests
- Ukraine opposition eggs on protests after parliament setback
- Yanukovich says will do his best to move towards EU
- Ukraine PM Mykola Azarov warns of coup in making
- The company Ukraine keeps
- Ukraine May Be Heading For A Currency Crisis
- Main Players in Ukraine’s Political Drama
Editor’s Note: It’s OK though because this is what the weapons are for.
Millions of pounds donated to Comic Relief have been invested in funds with shares in tobacco, alcohol and arms firms, BBC Panorama has learned.
The BBC has also seen evidence which suggests Save the Children censored criticism of energy firms, to avoid upsetting corporate partners.
Comic Relief said it used its funds to “deliver the greatest benefits to the most vulnerable people”.
Save the Children said its campaigns were unaffected by any partnerships.
The spectre is looming of a second Syrian civil war with the head of the opposition’s official forces declaring that he is prepared to join regime troops in the future to drive out al-Qa’ida-linked extremists who have taken over swathes of rebel-held territories.
General Salim Idris, the commander of the Free Syrian Army warned that in particular Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham), with thousands of foreign fighters in its ranks, was “very dangerous for the future of Syria” and needs to be confronted before it becomes even more powerful.
Western security agencies now believe that Syria poses the most potent threat of terrorism in Europe and the US from where hundreds of Muslims have gone to join the jihad. MI5 and Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch recently tackled the first case of men sent from there specifically to carry out attacks in London.
- Is Obama Changing Tack on Syria?
- Iraqi FM Warns of Jihadi ‘Emirate’ in Syria
- Seizure of Nuns Stokes Syrian Christian Fears
- Foreign jihadists ‘use Turkey safe houses’
- A jihadist spark that could ignite the Israeli-Syrian border
- Syria’s “bride of the revolution” mourns freedom in al Qaeda’s grip
- E.U. security officials note increased flow of fighters to Syria’s civil war
- Beheadings and spies help al Qaeda gain ground in Syria
- U.S. point man for Syrian rebels is sidelined, powerless
- From Rebellion to Extortion: The Free Syrian Army Is Changing
- Kurdish Women Join Militias in Syria to Fight al-Qaeda
- Britain Courting Islamist Factions to Keep Syria War Going
- Rebels, Inc.
- Syrian rebels’ competition for limited money and weapons turns brutal
- U.S.: American fighters in Syria a security risk
- Video shows execution of Syrian rebels by al-Qaeda-linked group
- The Syrian rebels who have ‘no problem’ fighting alongside Al Qaeda
- Poisonous rivalries between commanders end in defeat for Free Syrian Army
- Fears Rise of ‘Taliban-Style’ Justice in Syria
- Al-Qaeda in Syria raids wedding party, warns against music and singing
- Syrian Rebel Factions Unite as ‘Islamic Front’
- Syrian Rebels Acquiring Anti-Aircraft Missiles
- Saudi Arabia to spend millions to train new rebel force
- Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch opens complaints department
Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.
[...] Why did the US and its European allies treat Saudi Arabia with such restraint when the kingdom was so central to al-Qa’ida and other even more sectarian Sunni jihadist organisations? An obvious explanation is that the US, Britain and others did not want to offend a close ally and that the Saudi royal family had judiciously used its money to buy its way into the international ruling class. Unconvincing attempts were made to link Iran and Iraq to al-Qa’ida when the real culprits were in plain sight.
But there is another compelling reason why the Western powers have been so laggard in denouncing Saudi Arabia and the Sunni rulers of the Gulf for spreading bigotry and religious hate. Al-Qa’ida members or al-Qa’ida-influenced groups have always held two very different views about who is their main opponent. For Osama bin Laden the chief enemy was the Americans, but for the great majority of Sunni jihadists, including the al-Qa’ida franchises in Iraq and Syria, the target is the Shia. It is the Shia who have been dying in their thousands in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and even in countries where there are few of them to kill, such as Egypt.
Machines of Loving Grace: I’d rather risk becoming a terrorist’s victim than live under a surveillance state
That the United States will suffer another major terrorist attack is certain. In the long run, determined, intelligent malice, coupled with the willingness to sacrifice one’s own life in the act, must now and then trump our defenses, which remain merely reactive. To be sure, proactive measures (such as drone strikes and commando operations) may prevent certain terrorist operations. All the same, we can only see and foresee so much. A lone-wolf suicide bomber retains the advantage.
It follows that any rational policymaker would wish to know as much as possible about as many people as possible. A perfect extension of this aim would entail constant passive surveillance of everyone on Earth, with the capability of making that surveillance active and then employing lethal force as needed. As a Richard Brautigan poem has it, we would be “all watched over by machines of loving grace.”
I myself would rather risk becoming a terrorist’s victim than live under any such system.
History has repeatedly shown that contagion makes an easy bedfellow with human conflict.
Take the poliovirus outbreak in Syria - and Israel and Egypt too – caused by related strains that can be traced back to Pakistan.
War and insurgency provide the ideal conditions for bacteria and viruses to take a foothold, so it is little surprise that poliovirus has become entrenched – endemic – in Pakistan and Afghanistan and has now re-emerged in the Middle East.
Similarly in Africa, political obstruction to vaccination campaigns means that poliovirus continues to circulate in northern Nigeria and igniting an outbreak in war-torn Somalia and the wider Horn of Africa.
Many public health experts believe that the lack of vigorous vaccination programmes meant that this was an outbreak waiting to happen.
The evidence is clear. These viral strongholds are threatening the global polio eradication programme.
Premier League to donate new football pitch at Ypres to commemorate ‘Christmas Truce’ match during First World War
The Premier League is to donate a floodlit football pitch to mark the centenary of the Christmas Truce match which saw British and German troops play each other during the First World War.
English football’s top flight announced that it will build a state-of-the-art third- generation artificial pitch in the Belgian city of Ypres by November next year as part of the centenary commemorations of the Great War.
In one of the conflict’s most famous episodes, troops fighting on the Western front halted hostilities to play a game in no-man’s land and later posed for pictures and exchanged gifts on Christmas Day 1914.
A Christmas Truce tournament organised by the Premier League and bringing Under-12 teams from England, Belgium, France and Germany together in Ypres has already been in place since 2011 to remember the spontaneous outbreak of goodwill.
The Hunger Games paints an eerily apt picture of the world’s reality. The Capitol is the rich nations of the world: the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Israel, some oil kingdoms, most European nations. The Districts are the poor nations of the world—Haiti, Nepal, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Papua New Guinea, many countries incentral Asia and Africa, all of which have per capita incomes less than $10 per day.
Holiday Lunacy: How Americans Are Conditioned to Buy Like Pavlov’s Dogs When the Corporate Bells Ring
Yes, it’s that’s time of year again when working Americans foolishly blow their hard-earned money on junk primarily because of the thousands of advertisements that tell them to do just that at an accelerated rate during the holidays.
Of course, you’re not supposed to know about the mothers and children in miserable conditions that labor to make all that material stuff for a buck a day, much less think about how the Company Men exploit the poor by turning them into automatons.
Just buy the stuff—that’s all that matters. If you don’t, Shame, shame, Oh the power of guilt! Why do you suppose the corporate networks broadcast the shopping malls as if it were a competitive race almost every night until the end of New Year’s?
[...] I don’t know about you, but I dread this time of year when we’re bombarded by the commercial world to buy, Buy, BUY!: the bells, the whistles, the jingles, the flashing lights, the advertised SALES that lunatics literally kill for as they blast through the doors of WalMart or Target—luring the masses in a fit of madness to fill up their enormous carts with tons of plastic garbage and polluting junk, even if they’re still paying off the credit cards from last year’s Christmas. And the winners are…, as Senator Bernie Sanders pointed out, “The Walton family of WalMart now owns more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans. Meanwhile, we continue to have, by far, the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world.”
In the United States we are raised to appreciate the accomplishments of inventors and thinkers—creative people whose ideas have transformed our world. We celebrate the famously imaginative, the greatest artists and innovators from Van Gogh to Steve Jobs. Viewing the world creatively is supposed to be an asset, even a virtue. Online job boards burst with ads recruiting “idea people” and “out of the box” thinkers. We are taught that our own creativity will be celebrated as well, and that if we have good ideas, we will succeed.
It’s all a lie. This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.
“We think of creative people in a heroic manner, and we celebrate them, but the thing we celebrate is the after-effect,” says Barry Staw, a researcher at the University of California–Berkeley business school who specializes in creativity.
Staw says most people are risk-averse. He refers to them as satisfiers. “As much as we celebrate independence in Western cultures, there is an awful lot of pressure to conform,” he says. Satisfiers avoid stirring things up, even if it means forsaking the truth or rejecting a good idea.
Even people who say they are looking for creativity react negatively to creative ideas, as demonstrated in a 2011 study from the University of Pennsylvania. Uncertainty is an inherent part of new ideas, and it’s also something that most people would do almost anything to avoid. People’s partiality toward certainty biases them against creative ideas and can interfere with their ability to even recognize creative ideas.
With an endowment larger than all but four of the world’s largest hedge funds, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is easily one of the most powerful charities in the world. According to its website, the organization ”works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.” So how do the investments of the foundation’s $36 billion investing arm, the Gates Foundation Trust, match up to its mission? We dug into the group’s recently released 2012 tax returns to find out.
U.S. oil company Chevron has suspended exploration for shale gas in northeastern Romania after hundreds of anti-fracking protesters tore down fences.
Chevron won approval to drill exploratory wells in the town of Pungesti, but halted work for a second time Saturday after residents blocked access to the site.
Hundreds of riot police couldn’t prevent residents from demolishing fences and breaking into the site. Dozens were detained and 14 were charged with destruction of property and carrying knives.
Chevron said it had suspended work “as a result of unsafe conditions” and informed police of destruction to its property.
Thousands of people have rallied across Romania in recent months to protest against government support for shale gas exploration. Chevron had resumed work at the site on Dec. 2.
British warplanes and other military assets will be handed over to European Union countries under sweeping plans to create what Conservative MPs believe will become a “Euro Army”.
David Cameron is under pressure to block the EU’s growing military ambitions, which Tories say pose a threat to Nato and could undermine Britain’s “special relationship” with the United States.
In what Conservatives fear could be an irreversible step, the Prime Minister is preparing to commit Britain to deeper military cooperation across the EU at a summit in Brussels later this month.
The deal would pave the way for developing a new fleet of unmanned drones, promoting the deployment of EU rapid response “battlegroups”, and drawing up new cyber warfare and maritime security strategies next year.
The independent watchdog has refused to bow to pressure from political leaders to scale back the increase at a time voters are feeling the squeeze.
Ipsa will unveil its final proposals next week – including boosting MPs’ salaries to £74,000 from 2015 – 11% higher than they get at present.
It is expected to try to temper criticism by announcing a tougher-than-expected squeeze on MPs’ pensions in a bid to cancel out the £4.6 million cost to the public purse.
A £2.5 million saving by downgrading the final salary scheme to career average – matching the rest of the public sector – had already been proposed alongside a crackdown on various perks.
All three main party leaders have condemned the increase at a time of national austerity, with both Labour’s Ed Miliband and Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg pledged to shun the extra money.
The US defence secretary says his country has no plans to retreat from any part of the world, as he departs for Bahrain to attend the Manama Dialogue, followed by a visit to Doha for talks with Qatari leaders.
Chuck Hagel made his remarks after the Pentagon announced a 20 per cent cut to the pentagon headquarters budget, a first step to reign in budgets as the department faces a US$1 trillion (Dh3.67 trillion) cut over the next decade.
“Last week we entered our thirteenth year of combat in Afghanistan, while simultaneously delivering much-needed relief supplies in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, and while maintaining a steady state of presence in the Arabian Gulf” and elsewhere, Mr Hagel said on Wednesday.
Mr Hagel also spoke with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, by phone on Thursday as he travelled to Manama, underscoring “the US commitment to the security of the United Arab Emirates and its allies and partners in the Gulf”, according to a Pentagon readout of the phone call.
In February, the Bush family’s personal emails were hacked by Guccifer, a hacker who uncovered photographs of former President George H. W. Bush in a hospital bed and George W. Bush’s oil paintings in the process. It seems Guccifer has struck again, this time targeting former President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Library. The hacker has reportedly uncovered doodles of Clinton drawing on what were, at the time, classified documents. Among the doodles is apparently a picture of a penis.
The document uncovered is a briefing of the strategic measures the United States could take prior Clinton’s decision to intervene in the civil unrest associated with the collapse of Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s. The briefing is covered in sketches, including an American flag, a chef with a frying pan, and an erect phallus.