Angry with Washington, 1 in 4 Americans open to secession

Scott Malone reports for Reuters:

‘The failed Scottish vote to pull out from the United Kingdom stirred secessionist hopes for some in the United States, where almost a quarter of people are open to their states leaving the union, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found.

Some 23.9 percent of Americans polled from Aug. 23 through Sept. 16 said they strongly supported or tended to support the idea of their state breaking away, while 53.3 percent of the 8,952 respondents strongly opposed or tended to oppose the notion.’


Journalists criticize White House for ‘secrecy’

Michael Tarm reports for The Associated Press:

‘Editors and reporters meeting in Chicago raised concerns Wednesday about what they described as a lack of access and transparency undermining journalists’ work, several blaming the current White House for setting standards for secrecy that are spreading nationwide.

Criticism of President Barack Obama’s administration on the issue of openness in government came on the last day of a three-day joint convention of the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Associated Press Photo Managers.’


Man jumps White House fence, makes it all the way inside

Russian billionaire Yevtushenkov denies being freed from house arrest

AFP reports:

Sistema chairman of the board Vladimir Yevtushenkov (RIA Novosti/Anton Denisov)‘The probe against Russia’s 15th richest man, with a fortune of $9 billion (7 billion euros), according to Forbes magazine, centres on a deal in which Sistema bought oil company Bashneft. Sistema is a vast holding with major interests in the country’s biggest mobile telephone company MTS and a range of other assets.

Yevtushenkov was placed under house arrest late Tuesday, issued with a monitoring bracelet, barred from using the Internet, and confined to his country mansion outside Moscow. Yevtushenkov’s case swiftly won comparisons with the prosecution of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade behind bars after being stripped of his Yukos oil company.’


Kremlin to consider plans which could remove Russia from global Internet ‘in an emergency’

Kashmira Gander reports for The Independent:

‘Russia may remove itself from the global Internet to protect itself against perceived threats from the West, a Kremlin spokesman suggested on Friday. The Kremlin dismissed accusations it aims to isolate the Russian Internet, and insists it is merely concerned with protecting its national security – particularly as relations with the West have reached their lowest since the Cold War.

However, the country has recently passed several laws targeting Internet use, which include making popular bloggers register as media outlets, and forcing websites to store the personal data of Russian users… The moves come as Russia attempts to reduce its use of American technology, fearing that its communications are vulnerable to US spying. Earlier this year, President Vladimir Putin called the web a “CIA special project”.’


Feted across the West but now Nadya Tolokonnikova wants to concentrate on reform in Russia

Amelia Gentleman recently interviewed Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova for The Guardian which contains some interesting insights into the West’s early attempts to attach themselves to the group:

Nadya Tolokonnikova‘It is an oddly abstract volume [Comradely Greetings, a book of correspondence between Nadya and radical philosopher Slavoj Žižek], constrained at times by the presence of a censor, stripped of detail about prison life, and concerned with serious theoretical analysis of Tolokonnikova’s protest work. The two discuss how peculiar it was that Pussy Riot found such instant support in the west, given that Pussy Rioters have voiced concerns about global capitalism alongside their criticism of Putin. “All hearts were beating for you as long as you were perceived as just another version of the liberal democratic protest against the authoritarian state. The moment it became clear that you rejected global capitalism, reporting on Pussy Riot became much more ambiguous,” Žižek writes.

Tolokonnikova does not want to talk much about the letters; she wrote them 18 months ago, and says she has largely forgotten what was in them, but she says she is grateful for the support she has received from the west, from Madonna to Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t really matter if their reasons for opposing Putin differ, she says. “I feel very positive about how Madonna helps us, and people like her,” says Tolokonnikova, who was recently criticised by other members of the Pussy Riot collective for appearing on stage with Madonna (their appearance was “highly contradictory to the principles of Pussy Riot”, since “we only stage illegal performances in unexpected places”). “Our position is that when Katy Perry sends us good wishes, that’s great. Maybe she doesn’t know anything about human rights, or maybe she does – there’s no reason to think that inside a nice-looking girl is an idiot,” she adds.

Tolokonnikova met Clinton for barely a second, but had they had a proper chance to talk, she would have set out her belief that the US has to take some responsibility for Putin’s behaviour internationally, and that it needs to rein in “its aggressive foreign policy”. “It’s bad in itself. But it’s also bad for us in Russia, because every time Putin makes an intervention in foreign affairs, he points to US behaviour over the past decade,” she says.’


FEMA Is Trying To Get Back $5.8M in Hurricane Sandy Aid Money

Alice Speri reports for VICE News:

‘The US disaster response agency is now asking Hurricane Sandy victims to return millions that it accidentally handed out following the devastating storm, which in the fall of 2012 affected the entire eastern seaboard of the US, from Florida to Maine, and as far west as Wisconsin.

The agency is hoping to recoup some $5.8 million in aid it disbursed to households affected by the “superstorm” that flooded several communities and killed dozens of people while damaging or destroying tens of thousands of homes.

FEMA shelled out some $1.4 billion in aid following the storms — but it is now looking into some 4,500 households it has found to be ineligible for the funds, and it has already sent out letters to about 850 of them asking for its money back, the Associated Press found in an investigation of the agency’s records.’


MPs claiming more expenses now than at height of 2009 scandal

Rowena Mason reports for The Guardian:

‘MPs are under fire over their expenses once more after it emerged they claimed more last year than at the peak of the expenses scandal, while a quarter employed family members with public money.

Despite the furore of the expenses scandal just five years ago, MPs claimed £103m in 2013/14 – up from £98m the previous year and slightly more than they did at the high watermark of £102m set in 2008/09. Higher staffing spend is one of the reasons that MP expenses claims have started rising since they were brought down when a tougher system was introduced in the wake of the scandal.’


Uzbekistan’s flamboyant first daughter grounded by corruption charge

Olivia Ward reports for the Toronto Star:

‘Gulnara Karimova wants to be wanted, but in a good way. Now Uzbekistan’s flamboyant First Daughter is wanted by all the wrong people – state prosecutors who this month charged her with “ systemic corruption .”

Karimova is currently under house arrest and under investigation, and her fast and furious social media communications have been cut off for seven months.

A London PR firm, hired to defend her reputation, issued a press statement that she is “being held for purely political reasons.” The uznews website published photos of a harried-looking Karimova gripped by a beefy camouflage-clad guard, and minus her trademark bling and blond mane.’


Iranian FM: US ‘obsessed’ with sanctions against Tehran

AFP reports:

‘Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday accused the United States of being “obsessed” with sanctions against his country, on the eve of new bilateral talks on a nuclear deal.

“We are committed to resolving this issue,” Zarif told a Washington think-tank, but he argued the US was “infatuated” with sanctions and Congress was objecting to any deal “because they would have to lift the sanctions.”

“Iran has shown that we will live up to every agreement,” Zarif argued at a discussion hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, just hours before the Iranian delegation was to meet in New York with US counterparts for fresh talks.’


Israeli envoy: Nuclear Iran ‘a thousand times’ more dangerous than Islamic State

Ron Kampeas reports for The Times of Israel:

‘Saying a nuclear Iran would be a “thousand times” greater threat to the world than the Islamic State, Israel’s ambassador to the United States warned against including Iran in any coalition to derail the jihadist group.

Ron Dermer, speaking Wednesday to guests at a pre-Rosh Hashanah reception at his residence in suburban Maryland, also cautioned the US against accommodating Iran during the current effort to degrade IS.His urgent tone was the latest sign of a split between the Obama and Netanyahu governments over how to deal with Iran’s role in stopping IS, which is seizing swaths of Iraq and Syria.’


US soldiers are more likely to kill themselves than be killed in combat

Anand Katakam reports for Vox:

 ‘The withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan means that fewer American soldiers are in harm’s way. But new data from the Department of Defense suggests that the drawdown has done little to solve the serious problem of military suicides. The rate of military self-inflicted deaths has stayed roughly the same even as combat deaths have fallen.

Last year alone, 475 active service members took their own lives according to a report published last week by the Department of Defense. In the same year, 127 soldiers lost their lives in the line of duty reported — a website that has been documenting war deaths since the Iraq War in 2003. That’s the lowest level since 2008.’


Severe black lung returns to 1970s levels

James R. Carroll reports for The Courier-Journal:

fileblacklung.jpg‘Coal miners in Kentucky and other parts of Appalachia are contracting serious cases of black lung disease at rates not seen since the early 1970s — just after preventive regulations were enacted, according to a study published Monday.

Only 15 years ago, progressive massive fibrosis — an advanced form of black lung for which there is no cure — was virtually eradicated, health researchers say. But now, the prevalence of the disease in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia is at levels not seen in 40 years… Black lung is caused by the excessive inhalation of coal dust.’


Study: Artificial sweeteners may alter gut microbes, raise diabetes risk

Allison Aubrey reports for NPR:

Should we drink diet soda or not? The latest study doesn't really clear things up.‘The debate over whether diet sodas are good, bad or just OK for us never seems to end. Some research suggests zero-calorie drinks can help people cut calories and fend off weight gain. But in recent years, the idea that artificial sweeteners may trick the brain and lead to “metabolic derangements,” as one researcher has theorized, has gained traction, too.

Now, a new study published in the journal Nature introduces a new idea: Diet sodas may alter our gut microbes in a way that increases the risk of metabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes — at least in some of us. In the paper, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel describe what happened when they fed zero-calorie sweeteners, including saccharin, aspartame and sucralose, to mice.’


Madrid’s Plaza Margaret Thatcher is a curious landmark for curious times

Miguel-Anxo Murado writes for The Guardian:

Margaret Thatcher's son Mark Thatcher at the opening of the square named after her in Madrid‘Margaret Thatcher now ranks between Columbus and Goya. Not between the men and their achievements, but in between their namesakes in the Madrid street map. There, near Columbus Square, with it’s gigantic, Brobdingnagian Spanish flag and Goya Street, with its row of expensive fashion stores, now lies Plaza Margaret Thatcher, the only such tribute to the Iron Lady outside the UK.’


Study: Workers who cycle, walk and use public transport are “happier than drivers”

The Daily Mail reports:

No traffic: Including a form of exercise such as walking to the bus stop, and then 'switching off' during the ride to work improves mental and physical well being ‘Active travel’ such as cycling or walking to the bus stop improves well-being, while those who get behind the wheel of a car feel under strain and less able to concentrate, the University of East Anglia suggests.

While most commuters associate public transport with cramped Tube carriages and delays, it appears that they are better off than those in their cars. Including some form of exercise in the daily commute, whether it’s cycling the entire way or simply walking to the train station, improves mental well-being as well as physical.  ‘Switching off’ during a ride on public transport is also beneficial.’


Northern Rail staff refused to help pensioner because they hadn’t been trained in “people-handling”

The Yorkshire Post reports:

Scene: The extraordinary excuse given by the Northern Rail workers, who let other passengers tend to the shocked woman at Leeds train station (pictured), was that they had not been trained in ¿people-handling¿‘Northern Rail was under fire today after claims that its staff refused to help a woman pensioner who fell on an escalator at Leeds Station because they were not “people handling-trained”.

The company, which faced fury earlier this week for hiking ticket prices by up to 117% with the axing afternoon off-peak fares, is now accused of “shameful behaviour” over the woman’s plight.

Commuter Tom Lees told the BBC the woman fell backwards after she lost her footing while travelling up an escalator connecting the platforms.’


Rival Scottish Independence Rallies Hit Glasgow As Police Look On

Louise Ridley reports for The Huffington Post:

glasgow trouble‘Police are holding back opposing crowds of pro and anti-independence supporters in George Square in Glasgow, amid reports of flag burning and mounting tensions in the city after the Scottish referendum result.

The confrontation follows Alex Salmond‘s announcement that he will quit as Scottish first minister after voters rejected Scottish independence. Glasgow was one of just four local authorities which voted for independence from the UK, while the majority of Scotland – 55% of the population – voted for it to remain in the union. Police closed the city centre to traffic on Friday evening as they separated the crowds, with some protesters reportedly holding flags and setting off flares.’


Libya meeting rejects military intervention

Al Jazeera reports:

‘Libya’s struggling elected government and representatives of 15 neighbouring nations have unanimously rejected the idea of military intervention as a way to restore stability in the oil-rich North African nation, which some say is on the brink of civil war. Meeting in Madrid on Wednesday, officials from countries surrounding Libya and to its north across the Mediterranean concluded “there is no military solution to the current crisis”.

Libya currently has two competing parliaments and governments. The government and elected House of Representatives last month relocated to Tobruk after an armed Islamist group from the western city of Misrata seized the capital Tripoli and most government institutions, as well as the eastern city of Benghazi. The rival previous parliament remains in Tripoli and is backed by Islamist militias.’


No Justice: The Story of the Chagos Islands and Its People

Alyssa Rohricht writes for CounterPunch:

‘Many know of the forced displacement of the people of the Bikini Islands, who were removed from their land to make room for US Army and Navy joint testing of nuclear weapons in the 1940s. While the islanders were told that they would only have to leave “temporarily” so that the US could test atomic bombs “for the good of mankind and to end all world wars,” many of the Bikini islanders have yet to return home to this day, siting fears of nuclear contamination, despite US assurances of the land’s safety.

Of course, it is not just a home that is lost when colonial powers forcibly remove a people from their land – it is a history, a community, a cultural heritage. The Bikini islanders are not the only people who have been displaced for American military hegemony. Lesser known but all-too relevant is the story of the Chagos Islands and the Chagossian people. The Chagos Archipelago consists of over 50 small islands in the Indian Ocean. No Chagossians now inhabit the island, which once was home to 1,500-2,000 indigenous peoples, mostly of African, Malagasy, and Indian origin brought to the islands as slaves to work on coconut plantations in the 18th century. Today, the island of Diego Garcia in the Chagos Archipelago is home to “The Footprint of Freedom” – or the Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia – one of the most strategically important US military bases in the world.’


The Trews: Westminster Fear and Media Bias Shafted Scotland

The dream of Scottish independence is over, so what now?

From Another Angry Voice:

‘I’m disappointed, but not surprised at the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum.

It’s no surprise that a lot of voters didn’t dare to defy the entire Westminster establishment, the whole mainstream media (except the Sunday Herald), the outrageously biased BBC (reputation surely tarnished beyond repair now), the bully boy banks (who were bailed out by us just a few years ago when they caused the crisis that the Tories have so gleefully exacerbated through ideological austerity) and countless businesses who were pressurised by the government into making ridiculous threats (price rises, relocations, job cuts etc).

You can’t blame people for being afraid and making what they consider to be a conservative decision. However many “undecided turned no” voters may live to regret their decision in 2015 if the UK ends up with the nightmare scenario of a Tory-UKIP coalition (Boris and Nigel) hell bent on punishing Scotland for daring to even have such a referendum, and dragging Scotland out of the EU, (no matter which way the people of Scotland vote on the matter). Many people have simply failed to realise that uncertainty cuts both ways.’


Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God

Matthew Weaver reports for The Guardian:

‘The archbishop of Canterbury has admitted to having doubts about the existence of God and disclosed that, on a recent morning jog with his dog, he questioned why the Almighty had failed to intervene to prevent an injustice.

In a light-hearted but personal interview in front of hundreds of people in Bristol cathedral last weekend, Justin Welby said: “There are moments, sure, where you think ‘Is there a God? Where is God?'”Welby quickly added that, as the leader of the world’s 80 million-strong Anglican community, this was “probably not what the archbishop of Canterbury should say”.’


U.N. torture inspectors say barred from Azerbaijan jails

Reuters reports:

‘A United Nations human rights team looking into complaints of torture in Azerbaijan said on Wednesday it had cut short its investigations because it had been stopped from visiting some government detention centres.

In a statement issued in Geneva, the five-person group said the action by the authorities in the former Soviet republic had come despite assurances that the team would have unrestricted access to all places where prisoners were held.’


World population could rise by three billion more than expected

David Usborne reports for The Independent:

‘Life on earth is set to become even more cheek-by-jowl than previously thought, a report by a team of scientists and statisticians warned last night. The study, by researchers from the University of Washington and the United Nations, says there is an 80 per cent chance that by the end of this century the global population could have reached between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion people.’


Police Probe Glasgow Voter Fraud Allegations

Sky News reports:

Suspect ballot paperPolice are investigating allegations of voter fraud in the Scottish referendum in Glasgow, election officials have confirmed.

Colin Edgar from Glasgow City Council told Sky’s Kay Burley police were called in after evidence emerged of 10 possible incidents of electoral fraud in the city.

The allegations appear to centre on attempts at personation at some polling stations.’


Scotland votes ‘No': Many nations are heaving a sigh of relief

Bridget Kendall writes for BBC News:

‘The referendum over Scottish independence has had the world holding its breath. And even though there is deep affection across the globe for Scotland’s distinct identity, the news that it is not going to leave the UK will mean many governments are heaving a sigh of relief.

Some feared that Scottish independence might encourage other separatist movements. Others worried that it would turn the rest of the UK into a weaker and distracted partner. But has Britain’s global standing been affected nonetheless?

There is an argument that the UK, along with the rest of the West, is already in decline – its clout eroded by the rise of emerging giants like China, India, Russia and Brazil. And the very fact of this referendum shows its power and prestige is on the wane, and its reliability as a partner has been undermined.’


Can the Scots Blaze a Trail of Economic Sovereignty? A Public Bank Option for Scotland

Ellen Brown writes for Web of Debt:

‘Arguments against independence include that Scotland’s levels of public spending, which are higher than in the rest of the UK, would be difficult to sustain without raising taxes.  But that assumes the existing UK/EU investment regime.  If Scotland were to say, “We’re starting a new round based on our own assets, via our own new bank,” exciting things might be achieved. A publicly-owned bank with a mandate to serve the interests of the Scottish people could help give the newly independent country true economic sovereignty.

I wrote on that possibility in December 2012, after doing a PowerPoint on it at the Royal Society of Arts in Edinburgh. That presentation was followed by one by public sector consultant Ralph Leishman, who made the proposal concrete with facts and figures.  He suggested that the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB) be licensed as a depository bank on the model of the state-owned Bank of North Dakota. I’m reposting the bulk of that article here, in hopes of adding to the current debate.’


The EU was supposed to end nationalism, but it gave it new life instead

‘From this corner of the world, the European Union always looked a dreary German project, one that was badly anti-democratic. The way the EU made nations vote over and over again on rejected treaties until it got the answer it wanted seemed unseemly in execution and Soviet in spirit. To an American conservative, Brussels appeared to be a locus of anti-nationalism, or post-nationalism.

And that was the intent. But looking at the events of 2014, I am starting to wonder if the EU isn’t the mother of a 21st-century nationalism.;


German voters reject establishment parties in state elections

Dietmar Henning reports for WSWS:

Germany cia wfb map.png‘The large-scale rejection of all established parties was the common factor in the state elections held in Thuringia and Brandenburg last Sunday. Twenty-five years after the demonstrations for free elections which ushered in the end of the Stalinist German Democratic Republic, only half of those entitled to vote did so in the two eastern German states. The turnout in both states—48 percent in Brandenburg and 53 percent in Thuringia—was an historic low.

In both states the newly founded Alternative for Germany (AfD) was able to enter parliament with double-digit figures. The party was formed one and a half years ago. At the centre of its program is rejection of the joint European currency, the euro, and the demand for the return to the Deutschmark. Although this issue was not up for debate in the regional elections, the AfD was able to win 12.2 percent of the vote in Brandenburg and 10.6 percent in Thuringia on the basis of its right-wing populist slogans. Following its recent success in Saxony the AfD is now represented in three East German state parliaments.’