January Playlist

Reject the surveillance state: Overreaction to terrorism is the true threat

Stephen Kinzer writes for The Boston Globe:

Monitors show imagery from security cameras at the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative in New York in 2013.Terrorists are likely to strike again in the United States. Innocent people will be maimed and killed. Afterward there may be another attack, and another one after that. The shooters or bombers will run the gamut, from disoriented misfits to coldly efficient fanatics. All would join the toast that an anarchist offers in “The Secret Agent,” Joseph Conrad’s trenchant dissection of the terrorist mind: “To the destruction of what is!”

Terrorism is a passing phenomenon. It is not likely to become a permanent fact of American life. Nonetheless it is a threatening part of today’s reality, and society must find ways to respond. The greatest danger is not complacency. Worse is the prospect that in our panic over terrorism, we willingly surrender some of the values that make our society worth defending. The true threat to our democracy is not terror, but our reaction to it.’

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British army sets up new brigade “for information age”

Jonathan Beale writes for BBC News:

[…] The Army says it’s learnt valuable lessons from Afghanistan – not least that it can’t win wars using pure military force alone.

The brigade will be made up of warriors who don’t just carry weapons, but who are also skilled in using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and the dark arts of “psyops” – psychological operations.

They will try to influence local populations and change behaviour through what the Army calls traditional and unconventional means.’

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Human Rights Watch: Rise in Extremisim Linked to War on Terror

DW reports:

Human Rights Watch Kenneth RothThe US and Great Britain “largely shut their eyes” to the persecution of the Sunni minority under former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the New York-based watchdog organization said. The situation was additionally burdened by the abuses in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and the security vacuum following the ousting of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

“There has been a tendency, particularly in the Middle East, to play shortsighted security concerns over principled support for human rights”, said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth while presenting the 660-page 2015 HRW report Thursday.

According to Roth, many governments “appear to have concluded that today’s serious security threats must take precedence over human rights.”

“In this difficult moment, they seem to argue, human rights must be put on the back burner, a luxury for less trying times,” Roth said.’

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This is how a police state protects “secrets”

Marcy Wheeler writes for Salon:

This is how a police state protects "secrets": Jeffrey Sterling, the CIA and up to 80 years on circumstantial evidenceThe participants in the economy of shared tips and intelligence in Washington D.C., breathed a collective sigh of relief when, on January 12, the government announced it would not force James Risen to testify in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. “Press freedom was safe! Our trade in leaks is safe!” observers seemed to conclude, and they returned to their squalid celebration of an oppressive Saudi monarch.

That celebration about information sharing is likely premature. Because, along the way to the conviction of Sterling this week on all nine counts – including seven counts under the Espionage Act — something far more banal yet every bit as dear to D.C.’s economy of secrets may have been criminalized: unclassified tips.’

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Canada Unveils New Anti-Terrorism Bill That Moves for ‘Unprecedented Expansion of Powers’

Andrea Germanos reports for Common Dreams:

Canada introduced on Friday new anti-terrorism legislation critics say gives spy agencies sweeping powers that threaten the public’s civil liberties. The legislation is the Anti-terrorism Act 2015, which Ottawa Citizen reporter Ian MacLeod described as “the most dramatic package of new laws since the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001.”

Among the provisions of the legislation are that it would expand the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)’s powers to “disrupt terrorism offenses and terrorist activity;” make it easier for law enforcement agencies to carry out preventive detentions, and allow them for longer time, make it easier to federal agencies to share information, and give law enforcement agencies power “to disrupt terrorism offenses and terrorist activity, according to a government fact sheet.

Defending the measures in Richmond Hill, Ontario on Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “Over the last few years a great evil has been descending over our world.”‘

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Chief constable warns against “drift towards police state” in Britain

Vikram Dodd reported in December for The Guardian:

Police officers ‘The battle against extremism could lead to a “drift towards a police state” in which officers are turned into “thought police”, one of Britain’s most senior chief constables has warned.

Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester, said police were being left to decide what is acceptable free speech as the efforts against radicalisation and a severe threat of terrorist attack intensify.

It is politicians, academics and others in civil society who have to define what counts as extremist ideas, he says.’

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Give frontline police Tasers to help fight terror threat, says UK’s federation leader

Vikram Dodd reports for The Guardian:

A Greater Manchester police officer holds a Taser stun gun‘Steve White, who chairs the Police Federation, said the availability of Tasers needed to be expanded because of evidence of terrorists’ plans to kill officers, who are traditionally unarmed.

[…] Tasers have been linked to at least 10 deaths in England and Wales over the past decade. In 2013, the factory worker Jordan Lee Begley, 23, died two hours after a Greater Manchester officer targeted him with a stun gun at his home after police were called to reports of an argument.

Police Federation leaders will vote next month on a proposal that every uniformed frontline officer should be offered training in the use of Tasers. Some may choose not to carry one.’

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2015 Bilderberg Meeting Confirmed: June 11-14

BilderbergMeetings.co.uk reports:

interalpen‘Austrian police have confirmed the date of the 2015 Bilderberg meeting. The security for the annual conference will take place from June 9th-14th. The meeting itself will take place from the Thursday to the Sunday of that week, June 11th-14th, at the exclusive Interalpen Hotel, in the mountains near Telfs.

The police have stated that they will be undertaking just the one single security exercise for the Bilderberg conference and for the G7 summit taking place nearby at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, Germany, from the 7th-8th June.’

SOURCE

The Real War in Ukraine: The Battle over Ukrainian Identity

Nicolai N. Petro recently spoke at panel on “Russia in the Global Context,” held at New York University and his remarks were featured at The National Interest:

I quite agree with Jack Matlock, our first ambassador to Russia, with Tony Brenton, Britain’s former ambassador to Russia, with Chris Westdal, Canada’s former ambassador to Russia and Ukraine, and former German chancellors Gerhard Schroeder and Helmut Schmidt, and Vaclav Klaus, former president of Czech republic.

The conflict in Ukraine is a conflict among indigenous communities that have very different ideas of what it means to be Ukrainian. It is a war over Ukrainian identity.

For the Westernmost regions (Galicia), being Ukrainian means suppressing Russian culture so that Ukrainian culture can thrive in its stead. Here, creating a Ukraine that is antithetical to Russia is commonly referred to as making a “civilizational choice” in favor of Europe.

For the eight Russophone regions of eastern and southern Ukraine (which I call the Other Ukraine), being Ukrainian means being a distinct nation that is still very close to Russia. These Ukrainians do not wish to join Russia, but neither do they wish to be forced to forsake Russian culture in order to be considered loyal Ukrainians. They do not accept the idea that there is any civilizational choice to make, but if forced to choose between a Ukraine in NATO or the EU and a Ukraine in alliance with Russia, they prefer Russia by a 2:1 margin.

At its core, therefore, this conflict is about whether Ukraine should be a monocultural or pluricultural nation, and peace is unlikely until Ukrainian politics are brought into conformity with the country’s cultural reality.’

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Putin: Ukraine army is NATO legion aimed at restraining Russia

RT reports:

Members of the Ukrainian armed forces drive armored vehicles in the town of Volnovakha, eastern Ukraine (Reuters / Alexander Ermochenko)‘The Ukrainian army is essentially a ‘NATO legion’ which doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine, but persists to restrict Russia, President Vladimir Putin says.

“We often say: Ukrainian Army, Ukrainian Army. But who is really fighting there? There are, indeed, partially official units of armed forces, but largely there are the so-called ‘volunteer nationalist battalions’,” said Putin.

He added that the intention of Ukrainian troops is connected with “achieving the geopolitical goals of restraining Russia.” Putin was addressing students in the city of St. Petersburg.

According to Putin, the Ukrainian army “is not an army, but a foreign legion, in this case a foreign NATO legion, which, of course, doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine.”’

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Death Toll in Ukraine Over 5,000 as Ceasefire Breaks Down: Interview with Serhiy Kudelia

Editor’s Note: Serhiy Kudelia is Assistant Professor of Political Scientist at Baylor University and co-author of ‘The Strategy of Campaigning: Lessons from Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin‘. Professor Kudelia recently returned from a trip to Eastern Ukraine. He says that violence has increased since the signing of the ceasefire agreement in September of last year because the Kiev government has made no serious attempt to negotiate with the rebels. He also says that media coverage in the West has not done justice to the complex nature of the situation.

The Media’s Dangerous Anti-Russian Jingoistic Game: Interview with Stephen Cohen

Editor’s Note: Stephen Cohen is Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU and Princeton, and he is a contributing editor to The Nation. He is also the author of ‘Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War‘. You can find more interviews and articles by Professor Cohen here.

Henry Kissinger, Mikhail Gorbachev separately warn about Ukraine crisis blowing out of control

The National Post reports:

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. left, and former leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev both had dire warnings about the situation in Ukraine.As Russian-backed rebels scored another victory is Eastern Ukraine Thursday, two giants of 20th-century geopolitics issued separate warnings about the crisis, suggesting it could evolve into a deeper, direct conflict between the United States and Russia with dangerous consequences.

Testifying at a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Henry Kissinger, an ardent Cold Warrior who was Richard Nixon’s main foreign policy advisor, stopped short of endorsing a call by the committee chairman, Republican Senator John McCainof Arizona, to provide defensive weapons to Ukraine’s military as it battles Russian-backed separatists.

[…] Meanwhile, former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev told Russia’s Interfax news agency that the West had “dragged” Russia into a new Cold War, one that risked outright confrontation.’

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Drone Footage Shows Auschwitz 70 Years After Camp Was Liberated

The Petulant Entitlement Syndrome of Journalists

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

‘[…] When political blogs first emerged as a force in the early post-9/11 era, one of their primary targets was celebrity journalists. A whole slew of famous, multi-millionaire, prize-decorated TV hosts and newspaper reporters and columnists – Tom Friedman, Tim Russert, Maureen Dowd, John Burns, Chris Matthews – were frequently the subject of vocal and vituperative criticisms, read by tens of thousands of people.

It is hard to overstate what a major (and desperately needed) change this was for how journalists like them functioned. Prior to the advent of blogs, establishment journalists were largely immunized even from hearing criticisms. If a life-tenured New York Times columnist wrote something stupid or vapid, or a Sunday TV news host conducted a sycophantic interview with a government official, there was no real mechanism for the average non-journalist citizen to voice critiques. At best, aggrieved readers could write a Letter to the Editor, which few journalists cared about. Establishment journalists spoke only to one another, and careerist concerns combined with an incestuous chumminess ensured that the most influential among them heard little beyond flowery praise.

Blogs, and online political activism generally, changed all of that. Though they tried – hard – these journalists simply could not ignore the endless stream of criticisms directed at them.’

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U.S. Law Enforcement Deploying Latest Tech For Super Bowl 2015 Security

Intervention in civil wars ‘far more likely in oil-rich nations’

Tom Bawden reports for The Independent:

According to academics from the Universities of Portsmouth, Warwick and Essex, foreign intervention in a civil war is 100 times more likely when the afflicted country has high oil reserves than if it has none. The research is the first to confirm the role of oil as a dominant motivating factor in conflict, suggesting hydrocarbons were a major reason for the military intervention in Libya, by a coalition which included the UK, and the current US campaign against Isis in northern Iraq.

It suggests we are set for a period of low intervention because the falling oil price makes it a less valuable asset to protect. “We found clear evidence that countries with potential for oil production are more likely to be targeted by foreign intervention if civil wars erupt,” said one of the report authors, Dr Petros Sekeris, of the University of Portsmouth. “Military intervention is expensive and risky. No country joins another country’s civil war without balancing the cost against their own strategic interests.”’

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The war on leaks has gone way too far when journalists’ emails are under surveillance

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

julian assange embassy windowThe outrageous legal attack on WikiLeaks and its staffers, who are exercising their First Amendment rights to publish classified information in the public interest—just like virtually every other major news organization in this country—is an attack on freedom of the press itself, and it’s shocking that more people aren’t raising their voices (and pens, and keyboards) in protest.

In the past four years, WikiLeaks has had their Twitter accounts secretly spied on, been forced to forfeit most of their funding after credit card companies unilaterally cut them off, had the FBI place an informant inside their news organization, watched their supporters hauled before a grand jury, and been the victim of the UK spy agency GCHQ hacking of their website and spying on their readers.

Now we’ve learned that, as The Guardian reported on Sunday, the Justice Department got a warrant in 2012 to seize the contents – plus the metadata on emails received, sent, drafted and deleted – of three WikiLeaks’ staffers personal Gmail accounts, which was inexplicably kept secret from them for almost two and a half years.’

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Bitter Lake by Adam Curtis (Documentary)

Victoria Nuland: Constant lying leaves RT unable to compete with “dynamic, truthful” US media

British scientists call for debate on ‘designer babies’

James Gallagher reports for BBC News:

BabiesDr Tony Perry, a pioneer in cloning, has announced precise DNA editing at the moment of conception in mice.

He said huge advances in the past two years meant “designer babies” were no longer HG Wells territory.

Other leading scientists and bioethicists argue it is time for a serious public debate on the issue.’

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China’s gender imbalance “most serious and prolonged in the world”

Xavier Symons writes for Bio Edge:

‘China has by far the greatest gender imbalance of any nation in the world, with conservative estimates from 2014 putting the ratio at 115.8 males to every 100 females.

The peak body responsible for family planning in the country, the National Health and Family Planning Commission, this week made its strongest statement yet on the crisis.’

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Turkmenistan: Black cars ‘banned’ by customs officials

BBC News reports:

Officials in white cars at a military parade in AshgabatCustoms officials in the Central Asian country have reportedly refused to allow the importation of black vehicles, according to Chrono-tm.org, a Vienna-based opposition website. They haven’t given a reason for the decision, but are advising importers to buy white vehicles instead because it’s considered a lucky colour, the website says. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov recently started using a convoy of white limousines to travel to public events, and about 160 top-ranking officials, including the heads of the country’s main media outlets, promptly followed suit, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported in September.’

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Why Animals Eat Psychoactive Plants

Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, recently published an excerpt from his book at Boing Boing:

‘The United Nations says the drug war’s rationale is to build “a drug-free world — we can do it!” U.S. government officials agree, stressing that “there is no such thing as recreational drug use.” So this isn’t a war to stop addiction, like that in my family, or teenage drug use. It is a war to stop drug use among all humans, everywhere. All these prohibited chemicals need to be rounded up and removed from the earth. That is what we are fighting for.

I began to see this goal differently after I learned the story of the drunk elephants, the stoned water buffalo, and the grieving mongoose. They were all taught to me by a remarkable scientist in Los Angeles named Professor Ronald K. Siegel.’

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Why We Need to Abolish Competition and Embrace Arguments: Interview with Margaret Heffernan

Abby Martin interviews Margaret Heffernan, author of ‘Willful Blindness’ and ‘A Bigger Prize’, about the destructive impact of competition and alternative models of incentivizing people to work together for the greater good.’ (Breaking the Set)

Jury Convicts Former CIA Officer Jeffrey Sterling of Leaking to Journalist & Violating Espionage Act

Kevin Gosztola writes for The Dissenter:

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling has been convicted by a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, of charges brought against him because the government argued he leaked classified information about a top secret CIA operation in Iran to New York Times reporter James Risen.

Sterling’s case was the first case involving an alleged leak to the press to proceed to a full trial in thirty years. The last case involved Samuel L. Morison, a Navy civilian analyst who was charged under President Ronald Reagan for leaking photographs of Soviet ships to alert America to what he perceived as a new threat.’

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Do corrupt governments breed political violence?

Carlos Lozada writes in her review of ‘Thieves of State’ by Sarah Chayes in The Washington Post:

Corruption, Compliance & Criminal Regimes: An Interview  with Sarah Chayes[…] The target of her zeal is government corruption around the world — an old challenge but one she recasts in urgent and novel terms. The trouble with fraud and bribery and the rest is not simply their moral evil or economic toll, Chayes argues. The real danger is that an abusive government can elicit violent responses, including religious extremism, putting the survival of the state at risk. The case she makes is anecdotal but alarming.

Chayes, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, is something of a rarity among Washington analysts. The places she writes about (Afghanistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Nigeria, among others) she knows well, not in the fly-in-for-a-week-then-pitch-an-op-ed kind of way. A former NPR correspondent who covered Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s and the fall of the Taliban after 9/11, Chayes went on to launch a business in Afghanistan, advise coalition forces there and work for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She’s been on all sides of the problem — at times, she admits, even inadvertently causing it.’

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Stuffocation: The hazards of too much stuff

James Wallman, the author of ‘Stuffocation,’ writes for BBC Magazine:

‘[…] We are now living in an age of abundance in the West. Before, material goods were expensive and scarce. Clothes were so hard to come by that they were handed down from generation to generation. A historian called Eve Fisher has calculated that before 1750 and the onset of the industrial revolution a shirt would have cost around £2,000 in today’s money. But now, things – shirts, shoes, toys and a million other consumer items – are cheap.

Once again, our inbuilt impulses have yet to catch up. As a result, many millions of us are filling our homes and lives, and suffocating under too much stuff.

This problem, which I call “stuffocation”, is the material version of the obesity epidemic. Since obesity is one of the most worrying problems we face, as individuals and as a society, saying that stuffocation is similar is quite a statement.’

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Axe fell on playing field day after Olympic torch visit

BBC News reports:

‘Former education secretary Michael Gove overruled advice to stop a school playing field being developed on the day after the Olympic torch travelled through the borough, the BBC has learned.

In 2012 the School Playing Fields Advisory Panel rejected a plan for a Barratt Homes development on the playing field of Elliott School in Putney. It was the day the Olympic torch was travelling through Wandsworth. But the then education secretary overruled the advice.’

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